The United States sent two supersonic bombers speeding over South Korea on Saturday as North Korea added four ballistic missile launches into the sea to its recent onslaught of military displays, underscoring the increasing regional tensions.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea, the four short-range missiles launched from a North Korean coastal location at about noon, traveling around 130 kilometers (80 miles) toward the country’s western sea.
In response to a significant joint aerial exercise between the United States and its allies, the North has test-fired more than 30 missiles this week, including an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday that caused evacuation alerts in northern Japan.
It has also flown a significant number of warplanes inside its territory.
According to the South Korean military, two B-1B bombers trained with four Americans.
On the final day of the joint air force drills known as “Vigilant Storm,” which ended on Saturday, there were four South Korean F-35s and four F-16 fighter jets in action.
It was the bombers’ first deployment to the Korean Peninsula since December 2017. Around 240 warplanes, including both nations’ sophisticated F-35 fighter jets, participated in the practice.
North Korea will respond with the “toughest counteraction” to any “hostile forces” attempts to infringe on its sovereignty or security interests, the country’s foreign ministry said late Friday. This week, North Korea’s military actions were an appropriate response to the exercise, which it called a display of U.S.
The B-1Bs’ involvement in the joint exercises, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, showed that the allies were prepared to “sternly respond” to North Korean provocations and the U.S. commitment to defend its partner using all of its military resources, including nuclear power.
During previous periods of stress with North Korea, particularly the North’s provocative string of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017, B-1B flyovers have been a typical display of power.
But in recent years, the flyovers ceased as South Korea and the United States suspended their extensive military drills in favor of the former Trump administration’s diplomatic attempts with North Korea and because of the COVID-19 crisis.