US B-1B strategic bombers during exercises with South Korea on same day as North Korean missile launch

Tokyo, Japan

U.S. strategic bombers took part in joint aerial exercises with South Korean forces on Sunday, the same day North Korea conducted a suspected ballistic missile test, according to the South Korean military.

The exercise included US B-1B strategic bombers, South Korean Air Force F-35A stealth fighters and US Air Force F-16 fighters, and was part of the joint exercise Freedom Shield, the army said in a press release.

News of the drill came the same day North Korea launched a suspected ballistic missile into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, shortly after 11 a.m. local time, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry and the South Korean army.

However, the South Korean Defense Ministry did not confirm whether the air training exercise with the US bombers took place before or after the missile launch.

“The South Korea-US alliance maintains the best-combined defense posture in the face of North Korea’s continued regional instability,” the South Korean military said in its press release.

“Going forward, we will achieve ‘peace through strength’ and build credibility for US extended deterrence based on the alliance’s strong capabilities and posture,” he added.

The alleged ballistic missile launched by North Korea on Sunday reached a maximum altitude of about 50 km (31 miles) and traveled a distance of about 800 km (497 miles), according to Japan’s Defense Ministry. It was fired from the Dongchang-ri area of ​​North Pyongan province in North Korea and landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, according to the South Korean military.

After the missile landed, the Japanese Coast Guard warned all ships to await further information; do not approach fallen objects; and report any suspicious items.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the military has heightened surveillance and vigilance for additional launches “while maintaining a full readiness posture through close cooperation with states.” -United”.

North Korea often responds to what it sees as “provocations” from the United States with belligerent threats. Its leader Kim Jong Un has accused the United States and South Korea of ​​increasing tensions with its joint military exercises.

The latest launch follows a wave of missile tests by North Korea, including one of a long-range ballistic missile on Thursday as the leaders of South Korea and Japan met in Tokyo, and the firing of two cruise missiles of a submarine and two short-range ballistic missiles a few days earlier.

The Japanese and South Korean governments strongly condemned Sunday’s missile launch, calling it “a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions”.

The repeated launches from Pyongyang “threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community”, the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The joint spring military exercises between the United States and South Korea are the biggest war games the allies have staged in five years.

Prior to the 11-day Freedom Shield drills, North Korea had threatened to take “the toughest of counterattacks against the most vicious plots of the United States and its supporters”.

On Saturday, North Korea said around 800,000 of its citizens had volunteered to join or re-enlist in the national army to fight the United States.

The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported on Saturday that around 800,000 students and workers across the country had, on Friday alone, expressed a desire to enlist or re-enlist in the military to counter states -United.

Experts say that in addition to joint military exercises and the meeting this week between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese leader Fumio Kishida, Pyongyang has opposed US President Joe Biden’s plan to host Yoon and his wife to the White House next month. .

The state visit will be the second of Biden’s presidency, underscoring the close ties between the United States and South Korea, and will take place on April 26. Conservative Yoon and his administration have made strengthening the U.S.-Korea alliance a key foreign policy priority. Biden, likewise, has sought to nurture the relationship, including with the symbolic marker of his trip to Seoul in May 2022, his first stop on his maiden trip to Asia as president.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, recently told CNN that in response to drills and summits, Pyongyang may “order longer-range missile launches, attempt a spy satellite launch, demonstrate a solid fuel engine, and maybe even perform a nuclear test.


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