The United States said it was flying training missions of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea, in a clear signal to North Korea at a time of escalating military tensions.
The flights — part of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises — should be seen as underscoring US commitment and capacity to defend Seoul against an attack from the North, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
In response to UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test last month, North Korea has warned of a “second Korean war” and threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the South and the United States.
Little said a B-52 from Andersen Air Force base in Guam, flew over South Korea on March 8 as part of a military exercise dubbed “Foal Eagle.”
“The B-52 Stratofortress can perform a variety of missions including carrying precision-guided conventional or nuclear ordnance,” he said Monday.
B-52s have taken part in annual exercises before, but Little said the Pentagon wanted to underline their use this time given the current, heightened tensions, and he added that further B-52 flights would be carried out.
“We’re drawing attention to the fact that we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important to demonstrate in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric,” he said.
That message was echoed in Seoul on Monday by visiting Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who promised to provide South Korea with every available military resource “offered by the US nuclear umbrella”.
In a major announcement on Friday, the United States unveiled plans to bolster its own missile defenses in direct response to the growing threat posed by North Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that 14 more interceptors would be stationed in Alaska, increasing by almost half the 30 already deployed along the California and Alaska coastlines.
Hagel said the defence upgrade was designed to “stay ahead of the threat” from North Korea, which is still believed to be years from having a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
The US initiative did not go down well in Beijing, where the Chinese foreign ministry warned that any effort to increase military capacity would only serve to “intensify antagonism”.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally and main trading partner.
Although it backed the latest UN sanctions against Pyongyang, analysts say China’s main concern is to avoid sudden regime collapse in Pyongyang that might result in a US-allied, reunified Korea.
Despite its growing isolation and the stepped-up international pressure, North Korea insists its plan to develop a viable nuclear deterrent is “unshakeable” and non-negotiable.
On the first day of negotiations for a conventional weapons treaty at UN headquarters on Monday, the North’s deputy UN ambassador Ri Tong-Il proclaimed the North’s “very proud and powerful” position as the latest nuclear weapons state.
Ri also denounced what he termed a US policy of “nuclear blackmail” that he insisted would “in the long run give birth to more nuclear weapons states”.
Republicans are ‘too cowardly’ to stand up for the morals they claim to have: Conservative columnist
Conservative Washington Post writer Max Boot called out Republicans for being more than willing to compromise their moral and "family" values for President Donald Trump.
In a Wednesday column, Boot said that GOP "scruples have eroded faster than the polar ice cap." There's the matter of the "Access Hollywood" tape, the race-baiting, xenophobia and now there's the matter of Jeffrey Epstein. But it was just four lone members who were willing to denounce Trump's order to four Congresswomen of color to go back to the country they came from.
Trump thinks impeachment is over after House vote
Following a vote by the Democratic House to table an effort by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) to approve articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the president gloatingly told reporters "that's the end of it," and mocked the resolution as a "ridiculous project."
"The House of Representatives rejecting a bid to launch impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and President Trump declaring victory," reported CNN's Erin Burnett. "Telling reporters seconds ago 'We've just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment, and that's the end of it.' He went on to call it the 'most ridiculous project.' Riding high now over how the whole saga over his racist tweets is playing out."
This explains why Trump picked a fight with the four Congresswomen of color: analysis
On one hand, President Donald Trump almost certainly chose to mark out Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) because of his own deep-seated racism.
But there is likely another reason he is doing it, wrote Aaron Blake of the Washington Post's "The Fix" on Wednesday: because his core voters hate them as much as he does.
Blake cited a new The Economist/YouGov poll of 2016 Trump voters' opinions on several politicians. "As you peruse it, it becomes clear that the conventional wisdom about why Trump picked these targets is right: They were ripe for motivating the GOP base ... All of them are better known among Republicans than Democrats, which suggests that a steady stream of coverage in conservative media has elevated them as potential Democratic bogeywomen. Trump is tilling fertile soil. And in fact, they might already be his most effective foils."