| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

US deploys B-1B bombers for separate drills with South Korea, Japan

The US independently deployed B-1B bombers for joint drills with South Korea and Japan on Wednesday, as the three allies ramped up their responses to North Korean threats.

According to South Korea’s defense ministry, a US B-1B bomber flew alongside South Korean FA-50 planes and US Air Force F-16 fighters as part of the ongoing Ulchi Freedom Shield drills. It was an American bomber’s tenth such mission this year.

North Korea typically criticizes yearly military drills as a dress rehearsal for war. The allies have made it clear that the drills are defensive in nature.

Separately, two United States Air Force B-1B bombers took part in joint exercises with 12 Japanese aircraft, including four F-15s, according to Japan’s defense ministry.

The U.S.-led bomber drills came days after North Korea attempted a satellite launch that ended in failure.

The U.S. and South Korea began Ulchi Freedom Shield last week – a joint large-scale military exercise designed to enhance their response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats, with the second part kicking off on Monday.

Wednesday’s exercise was a demonstration of what the allies have called “extended deterrence” in the face of North Korea’s recent space launch vehicle flights and a show of “strong united defense posture”, South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

Tokyo’s defense ministry said the U.S.-Japan joint air drills over the Sea of Japan on Wednesday confirmed the two militaries’ “readiness to respond to any situation” amid North Korea’s ballistic missile launches.

Japan also participated in a trilateral naval missile defense exercise with the U.S. and South Korea on Tuesday.

On Tuesday in a speech marking Navy Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the United States and its allies of increasing the risk of nuclear war, referring to an Aug. 18 summit at Camp David between the United States, South Korea and Japan.

“Owing to the reckless confrontational moves of the U.S. and other hostile forces, the waters off the Korean Peninsula have been reduced to the world’s biggest war hardware concentration spot, the most unstable waters with the danger of a nuclear war,” Kim was quoted as saying by state media KCNA.

  • Reuters