U.S. bombers drilled over Korea Thursday, drawing hostile rhetoric from the North.
Two B-1B Lancers, accompanied by allied fighter jets, flew over Pilsung Range in South Korea, Air Force spokeswoman Captain Victoria Hight revealed to Reuters. The training exercises come as three aircraft carrier strike groups have moved into the Pacific.
The drills were first reported by the Korean Central News Agency, which called Thursday’s joint military exercises with Japanese and South Korean aircraft a “surprise nuclear strike drill.”
North Korea well remembers the bombing campaigns during the Korean War that leveled much of the country. While the B-1B is no longer a nuclear-capable aircraft, even if North Korea seems to think so, it does carry the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber. Whenever the B-1B Lancers fly past, it always makes the rogue regime uncomfortable.
In the past, the U.S. military has flown bombers past in response to North Korean provocations, such as ballistic missile and nuclear tests, but now the U.S. is sending them over on a regular basis as a consistent demonstration of the combat capabilities of the U.S. and its allies, not as a response to any particular act or event on North Korea’s part.
“The U.S. imperialists are making last-ditch efforts to check the dynamic advance of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] by deploying their nuclear strategic assets in succession, but its army and people are never frightened at such moves,” KCNA wrote Thursday, referring to the presence of bombers, as well as nuclear-powered submarines and carriers in the area.
“The U.S. imperialist warmongers should not act rashly,” the state media outlet warned.
Thursday’s drills come just a few days before President Donald Trump arrives in Asia for his first presidential visit to the region. During his two-week visit, Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The North Korean threat is expected to top the president’s agenda while he is traveling around Asia.
North Korea has advanced its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs significantly this year. Not only does the country possess an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S., but it also has a staged thermonuclear warhead. Both have been tested successfully in the past couple of months. North Korea is expected to have a reliable nuclear deterrent as early as next year.
“We’re running out of time,” White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said earlier Thursday.
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