SEOUL, South Korea (HPD) — North Korea stepped up its recent weapons-test deployment Saturday by launching four ballistic missiles into the sea, while the United States sent two supersonic bombers over South Korea in a show of military might that put manifest the growing tensions in the region.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the four short-range missiles were fired from an area off North Korea’s west coast around noon and traveled about 130 kilometers (80 miles) before landing in waters west of the country.
The North Korean military has launched more than 30 missiles at sea this week, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that on Thursday triggered evacuation warnings in northern Japan, and carried out flights with warplanes inside its territory in an angry reaction to the aerial maneuvers. between the United States and its neighbor to the south.
According to the South Korean military, two B-1B bombers trained alongside four US F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-35 fighter jets on the final day of joint military exercises, dubbed “Storm Vigilante,” which ends on Saturday. It is the first time since December 2017 that bombers have been deployed to the peninsula. About 240 aircraft participated in the exercises, including advanced F-35 fighters from both countries.
For its part, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said Friday night that its actions were an appropriate response to the exercises, which it called a display of US “hysteria of military confrontation.” He said Pyongyang will respond with the “strongest reaction” to any attempt by “hostile forces” to violate its sovereignty or security interests.
According to the South Korean General Staff, the participation of the B-1Bs in the maneuvers indicates the willingness of the allies to offer a “firm response” to North Korean provocations and Washington’s commitment to defend its ally with all its military capacity, including the nuclear.
B-1B flights have been a regular show of force in previous periods of tension with the North. The planes last flew the region’s skies in 2017, during another phase of intense weapons testing, but have been stopped in recent years to support the Trump administration’s diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang, and due to the COVID pandemic. -19.
The allies resumed large-scale exercises this year after the North carried out weapons tests at a record pace, taking advantage of a split in the United Nations Security Council over Russia’s war in Ukraine to accelerate their development.
Pyongyang hates such displays of US military might so close to its border. The North describes the B-1B as a “strategic nuclear bomber,” although the plane has carried only traditional weapons since the mid-1990s.
The Storm Watch drills were scheduled to end on Friday, but after North Korea’s launches on Thursday, the allies decided to extend them until Saturday.