SEOUL – The United States has sent two B-1B strategic bombers flying over the Korean peninsula on Thursday, shortly before US President Donald Trump’s tour of Asia, which will have the North Korean crisis as one of the main focal points.
The two strategic bombers conducted sequenced joint exercises with Japanese and South Korean fighters on Thursday, the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in a statement.
“The two B-1B Lancers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and transited south of Korea and west of Japan to integrate with Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) fighters,” the statement said.
“The Lancers then transited overland to Korea to integrate with Republic of Korea fighters in the Yellow Sea. Upon completion of bilateral integration, the aircraft returned to their respective home stations,” added the text.
According to the statement, the mission was planned in advance, and it was not conducted in response to any ongoing event.
However, this show of strength comes on the eve of the start of Trump’s Asian tour, which runs from Nov. 5-14, to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and whose agenda will be partly focused on dealing with the North Korean crisis.
The Pyongyang regime’s continued testing of weapons, including a nuclear test on Sept. 3, and the belligerent rhetoric of Trump himself have raised regional tension to unprecedented levels since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953).
Shortly before the Pentagon confirmed the dispatch of the two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang already condemned the US mission through a statement released by its state news agency KCNA.
“The frenzied US scheme of threats and blackmail, which aims to crush our republic with nuclear (weapons) continues in November as it did in October,” read the statement.
The US has repeatedly deployed the B-1Bs in recent weeks with the apparent aim of deterring Kim Jong-un’s regime from continuing its weapons tests.
Washington and Seoul agreed last weekend at their annual security meetings to “enhance rotational deployments of US strategic assets in and around the peninsula,” including bomber jets, submarines and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.