South Korea, US respond to North’s missile threat with B-1 bomber drills
Seoul, Feb 19 (EFE).- The US and South Korea conducted air defense drills on Sunday using American strategic heavy bombers in response to North Korea’s launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “surprise” exercise a day earlier.
A South Korean military statement did not specify the number of B-1B bombers that took part in joint aerial defense exercises on the tense peninsula.
But the statement did confirm that F-35A stealth fighters and F-15K jets from the South flew with US F-16 fighters to escort the B-1B aircraft in the South’s air defense identification zone.
“The training this time demonstrated the South Korea-US combined defense capabilities and posture featuring the alliance’s overwhelming forces, through the timely and immediate deployment of the US’ extended deterrence assets to the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.
The statement said the joint aerial exercises also affirmed “the unwavering commitment” and an “extended deterrence pledge” of the US for the defense of the peninsula.
The Pentagon usually deploys only one such bomber on the peninsula when the allies intend to warn the Kim Jong-un regime of the North.
Amid escalating tension between North Korea and the US in 2017, when Donald Trump was the American president, the Pentagon sent two strategic bombers to the peninsula.
In November also, the US flew bombers after Pyongyang fired more than 30 missiles in three days.
The previously unannounced move to fly the bombers again on Sunday came hours after North Korea said the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired in a “surprise” exercise a day ago was a Hwasong-15, capable of launching a “fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces.”
“The missile (on Sunday) traveled up to a maximum altitude of 5 768.5 km and flew 989 km for 4,015 seconds (one hour and six minutes) before accurately hitting the pre-set area in open waters of the East Sea of Korea,” said the news agency.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could fly 14,000 km and was capable of reaching the United States.
North Korea had tested the Hwasong-15 earlier just once.
North Korea on Friday threatened an “unprecedented” response to the joint military exercises that Seoul and Washington are to carry out in March.
The US and South Korea will hold a joint tabletop simulation drill next week to prepare for a potential nuclear attack from Pyongyang.
In 2022, North Korea test-fired a record number of missiles – around 50 – often in response to joint military drills by the US and South Korea,
The Pentagon has deployed strategic assets in the peninsula. EFE