Two U.S. supersonic bombers and four stealth jets soared over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday in a powerful display of military might after North Korea fired a missile over Japan and renewed a threat to target the waters near Guam.
The aircraft also conducted precision strike drills over the Pilsung range in a mountainous area of South Korea in an unprecedented combined maneuver.
Tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have spiked this summer as the communist state traded threats with President Donald Trump and test-fired several missiles, including one that flew over Japan on Tuesday.
The show of force came after Trump said Wednesday that “talking is not the answer” when it comes to North Korea, which has defiantly persisted with its efforts to develop a nuclear missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.
Washington and Seoul also wrapped up nearly two weeks of joint war games that always anger Pyongyang, which considers them a rehearsal for an invasion.
The pair of B-1B Lancers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and a squadron of F-35B stealth jets from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, were joined by four South Korean fighter jets, according to the U.S. Pacific Command.
It said the U.S. bombers flew with the Marine’s “newest and most advanced fighter” for the first time, adding the mission was “conducted in direct response” to North Korea’s latest missile test. The 10-hour mission began with a joint flight with Japanese fighter jets over waters near Kyushu, Japan in a bid to show solidary with the two staunch U.S. allies.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said.
The Pacific Air Forces commander just returned from an unscheduled visit to Japan to meet with his counterparts.
The communist state has conducted dozens of missile tests, including 13 this year, with many of them fired at a lofted angle to avoid neighboring territories.
South Korea’s defense ministry said in a report to the National Assembly that Tuesday’s launch was conducted at a “normal” angle but at half range.