The U.S. sent supersonic bombers to South Korea in a show of force Tuesday against the North, according to South Korean officials.
The flyover by two B-1B Lancers followed the death Monday of Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea for over a year before he was released last week in a coma. It is unclear exactly what caused his condition, but Warmbier’s parents claim that he was “brutalized” by the reclusive North Korean regime.
Warmbier was arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a political poster, a crime the North called a hostile act against the state, even going so far as to claim that the young college student was attempting to overthrow the regime.
The B-1B bombers, which have the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, conducted routine deterrence drills in cooperation with South Korean fighters Tuesday. The bombers also participated in exercises with Japan, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. military asserts that the flights are designed to “defend against provocative and destabilizing actions in the Pacific theater.”
The U.S. maintains a continuous bomber presence in the region and often dispatches heavy bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in response to North Korean provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The U.S. sent B-1B Lancers to the peninsula twice in May, during which North Korea tested several new missile systems, including one which could be the technological predecessor to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Bombers are usually sent to the peninsula in pairs and are typically perceived as a show of force.
President Donald Trump, along with other American officials, has condemned North Korea for the death of Warmbier, and the Department of State has demanded that North Korea release the three American prisoners still in detention. It is unclear if Tuesday’s flyby was connected to Warmbier’s tragic passing.
WATCH RESPONSE AFTER WARMBIER’S DEATH:
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