US deploys nuclear-capable bomber for Korea drills
The US and South Korea held joint aerial drills on Monday in seas west of the peninsula, with the Pentagon deploying a nuclear-capable B-52H strategic bomber to participate, the South Korean Defense Ministry has said.
The exercise was conducted above the waters of the Yellow Sea, with the bomber flying in formation alongside South Korean F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, the ministry said. The event came just three days after the US deployed B-1B heavy bombers to the region, the South Korean military noted.
“The deployment of the US B-52H strategic bomber to the Korean Peninsula demonstrates the allies’ decisive, overwhelming capabilities and posture to deter and respond to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats,” the military said in a statement.
The Pentagon previously deployed a B-52H bomber to the Korean Peninsula last December, with the new show of force coming ahead of major joint US-South Korean exercise Freedom Shield, scheduled to take place from March 13 to 23. The drills are set to become the largest joint exercise in at least five years, and will involve aerial training as well as amphibious landings.
The major exercise is set to be followed by a second drill, dubbed Warrior Shield. Speaking to reporters in Seoul on Friday, US Forces Korea spokesman Colonel Isaac Taylor said the wargames are intended to improve the US and South Korea’s response capabilities toward North Korean purported “aggression” and would incorporate “lessons learned from recent wars and conflicts.”
The US and South Korea opted to stage the drills despite repeated objections from Pyongyang, which warned that such exercises could be considered a “declaration of war” and lead to “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions.” On Sunday, North Korea appealed to the UN, urging the global body to halt the drills altogether.
Pyongyang has called on the UN and the international community to “strongly urge the US and South Korea to immediately halt their provocative remarks and joint military exercises,” Kim Son-gyong, a top official in the DPRK’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).