A nuclear-capable stealth bomber ripped across the Korean peninsula Wednesday just hours after the North attempted to fire off a ballistic missile.
A U.S. B-1B Lancer, flying alongside South Korean fighters, participated in an immediate deployment and bombing drill simulating a military contingency on the peninsula. The long-range heavy bomber was joined by South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and F-16 fighter jets. The aircraft returned to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam after the drills.
The drills with South Korea were preceded by joint military exercises with Japan.
“Through this exercise, the South Korean and U.S. Air Forces demonstrated their strong deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” South Korean Air Force officials said in a statement. “Working and training side-by-side with our ROK partners increases our ability to integrate air operations more effectively in order to deter aggression in the region,” Major Ryan Simpson, Pacific Air Forces bomber operations chief, said in a separate statement.
The B-1Bs stationed in Guam are part of the U.S. military’s Continuous Bomber Presence strategy.
North Korea test-fired a missile at a location on its east coast; however, the launch was unsuccessful. The North Korean projectile exploded shortly after launching. The latest launch is the sixth confirmed one since President Donald Trump took office.
The joint military drills with South Korea are part of the ongoing Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises, for which the U.S. has deployed the nuclear-powered submarine USS Columbus, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and other strategic military assets. Two B-1Bs were reportedly deployed to South Korea earlier in March after the Korean People’s Army aggressively launched four extended-range scud missiles into the Sea of Japan.
Pyongyang claimed the B-1B deployments were “aimed at making preemptive strikes at major targets” in North Korea.
North Korea is particularly riled up over the U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, which Pyongyang calls the “most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers.”
The North has fired multiple missiles, and just this past weekend, North Korea released a propaganda video showing U.S. heavy bombers, aircraft carriers, and troops in flames. Pyongyang warned “the businessmen turned U.S. authorities,” a reference to Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that North Korea “has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the U.S. would like to ignite.”
Choe Myong Nam, the deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva, said Tuesday that his country is developing “pre-emptive first strike capability.”
While the new U.S. administration is still formulating its policies, North Korea is rapidly emerging as an increasingly-provocative foreign policy crisis.
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