The United States has deployed two F-22 fighter jets to South Korea as part of an ongoing military operation. The operation has fuelled tensions between Seoul and North Korea, which has threatened armed retribution.
The US military said the two F-22 Raptor fighters arrived at the Osan Air Base, the main US Air Force base in the South, on Sunday to participate in the annual "Foal Eagle" exercise. They were reportedly deployed from a US base in Okinawa, Japan.
Announcing the move the US military command in the South urged North Korea to refrain from taking military action.
"[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," the statement said.
The exercise, due to last until April 30, has already seen the United States send two nuclear-capable B-2 Spirit bombers on practice runs over South Korea in a display of US support for Seoul.
North Korea responded on Saturday by announcing that it had entered a "state of war" with the South. A day earlier the North's leader Kim Jong Un signed an order putting Pyongyang's missile units on standby to strike the US mainland and US bases in the Pacific.
Pope urges restraint
North and South Korea have technically been at war since the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with a ceasefire rather than the formal signing of a peace treaty. But tensions escalated in February when Pyongyang conducted a third banned nuclear weapons test.
The move prompted further international sanctions designed to impede the North in its controversial nuclear program.
The latest threats from both sides have drawn international concern amid fears that the situation could rapidly descend into a nuclear conflict.
On Sunday Pope Francis used his first Easter Sunday address to call for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the Korean peninsula.
"May disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow," he said, speaking in Italian.
ccp/ch (AFP, Reuters)