Two B-1B Lancers reminded North Korea Friday that the U.S. and its allies are prepared to unleash unbelievable firepower in the event of a renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
The bombers were dispatched from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to the peninsula, where they were joined by South Korean and American fighter jets. During the joint drills, the two bombers conducted practice bombing runs at Pilsung Range in South Korea, according to the U.S. military.
The mission was in response to a string of North Korean provocations, the most recent of which was the successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement. Leading arms experts assess that the new North Korean ICBM — the Hwasong-14 — could strike targets in Alaska, with some observers suggesting that the range of the new missile may be even greater.
Shortly after the North’s ICBM test Tuesday, the U.S. and South Korea carried out a joint military exercise, firing off multiple missiles in a show of force. The B-1B bombers, which have the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, sent to Korea were intended to reinforce that message.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” Gen. Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, explained in a press statement. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
“U.S. bombers and Republic of Korea fighters are just two of many lethal military options at our disposal,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander, stated. “This mission clearly demonstrates the U.S.-ROK alliance remains prepared to use the full range of capabilities to defend and to preserve the security of the Korean Peninsula and region.”
On their way back to Guam, the B-1Bs also conducted joint drills with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance and the relationship between our militaries are stronger than they have ever been,” Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, U.S. Forces Japan commander, said. “We continue to train with our Japanese allies to ensure we are ready to defend ourselves from attack.”
While the U.S. and its allies have been flexing their muscles in response to North Korea’s continued provocations in violations of international restrictions, the allied governments are unwilling to go to war with North Korea, a conflict in which the allies would achieve victory but at a great cost.
“We would win at great cost,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in June, adding, “It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want.” He previously stated that war with the North would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”
“One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday, “but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.” She added that North Korea’s actions are “quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution.”
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