US bombers drill near Korea DMZ in show of force

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US bombers car­ried out a rare live fire drill in South Korea yes­ter­day, fly­ing close to the DMZ in a show of force af­ter Py­ongyang’s lat­est mis­sile test, the South’s de­fense min­istry said. The ex­er­cise by two B-1B Lancers, flown from An­der­sen Air Base in Guam, was part of a 10-hour mis­sion with South Korean and Ja­panese fighter jets in re­sponse to a “se­ries of in­creas­ingly es­ca­la­tory ac­tions by North Korea in­clud­ing the in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile” on Tues­day, US Pa­cific Air Forces said. South Korea’s Yon­hap news agency said the lon­grange heavy bombers flew close to the tense and heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized land bor­der with the North be­fore turn­ing back.

The ex­er­cise aimed to “sternly re­spond to the se­ries of North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile launches,” the South’s air force said in a state­ment. Four US and South Korean jet fight­ers joined the live fire drill, which was con­ducted at a range in Yeong­wol County, some 80 kilo­me­ters (50 miles) south of the in­terKorean bor­der, the South’s air force said. The long-range heavy air­craft each dropped a 2,000-pound (900-kilo­gram) laser-guided bunker-bust­ing smart bomb, Yon­hap said. The US state­ment said the B-1Bs re­leased “in­ert” weapons at the Pil­sung Range.

The drill sim­u­lated the two US bombers de­stroy­ing en­emy bal­lis­tic mis­sile bat­ter­ies and South Korean jets mount­ing pre­ci­sion strikes against underground en­emy com­mand posts, the South’s air force said. “Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demon­strated strong de­ter­mi­na­tion to thor­oughly pun­ish the en­emy for its provoca­tive acts, and showed off their ca­pa­bil­ity to pul­ver­ize en­emy com­mand posts,” it said. Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Thomas Berge­son, US Forces Korea deputy com­man­der, said the mis­sion demon­strated the al­lies re­main “pre­pared to use the full range of ca­pa­bil­i­ties to de­fend and to pre­serve the se­cu­rity of the Korean penin­sula and re­gion”.

En route back to Guam, the B-1Bs flew and in­te­grated with Ja­panese fighter jets over the East China Sea, US Pa­cific Air Forces said in a press state­ment. “The USJa­pan al­liance and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our mil­i­taries are stronger than they have ever been,” said Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Jerry P. Martinez, US Forces Ja­pan com­man­der. “We con­tinue to train with our Ja­panese al­lies to en­sure we are ready to de­fend our­selves from at­tack”, he said.

North Korea on Tues­day test-fired an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile for the first time, an ap­par­ent game-changer in its con­fronta­tion with Wash­ing­ton over its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams. In re­sponse, US and South Korean sol­diers fired bal­lis­tic mis­siles si­mul­ta­ne­ously in a drill Wed­nes­day, sim­u­lat­ing an at­tack on the North’s lead­er­ship “as a strong mes­sage of warn­ing,” the South’s mil­i­tary said at the time. The US Mis­sile De­fense Agency said Fri­day it would soon test an anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tem in Alaska, days af­ter the North demon­strated its arse­nal was ca­pa­ble of strik­ing parts of Alaska with the ICBM test.

—AFP

IN THE AIR: This hand­out photo shows B-1B Lancers (left and 2nd left) fly­ing over South Korea dur­ing a South Korea-US joint live fire drill con­ducted at a range in Yeong­wol County.

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