US bombers in show of force against N Korea
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoTwo huge U.S. bombers flew over South Korea on Sept. 13 in a show of force against the North as a top U.S. envoy said China must help close loopholes in sanctions following Pyongyang’s largest-ever nuclear test.
The supersonic B-1B Lancers reached airspace over the U.S. Osan Air Base at Pyeongtaek, 64 kilometers south of Seoul, at around 10 a.m.
Each aircraft, which had flown from the U.S. Pacific Command’s Andersen Airforce base at Guam, was escorted by U.S. and South Korean fighter jets.
“Today’s demonstration provides just one example of the full range of military capabilities in the deep resources of this strong alliance to provide and strengthen extended deterrence”, said General Vincent Brooks, U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command.
“North Korea’s nuclear test is a dangerous escalation and poses an unacceptable threat,” said the general, adding the U.S. has an “unshakable commitment” to defend allies in the region.
The U.S. “will take necessary steps to do so, including operations like this one today, and the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense [THAAD] battery to the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
South Korea in July announced plans to deploy THAAD, a sophisticated U.S. missile defense system, to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North.
But China, which believes the system’s radar could also be used to track its own defenses, objected strongly.
The plan has also met resistance from residents of the southern county of Seongju, the planned site.
South Korean opposition parties oppose the THAAD deployment, insisting it could escalate a regional arms race and hurt ties with China.
They also say its usefulness against the North’s military threats is doubtful.
Sept. 13’s overflight was “aimed at sending a clear warning to North Korea about its nuclear test, and containing further provocations,” South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun told journalists.
Washington took similar actions after previous atomic tests.
In January, the US flew a B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber over Osan Air Base after North Korea’s fourth nuclear blast.
South Korea is home to around 28,500 U.S. troops and numerous bases.
The flight came after the North on Sept. 9 carried out what it described as a “nuclear warhead test” and vowed to take further measures to increase its nuclear strike force “in quality and in quantity.”