The U.S. Air Force flew two stealth B-2 bombers over South Korea today, in a training mission that involved the dropping of munitions on a local island. It was the first time such a training mission had been made public in South Korea.
Taking off from Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri, the pair of stealth bombers went on a “long-duration, round-trip training mission” to provide “extended deterrence to allies in the Asia-Pacific region, the Combined Forces Command said today.
It is uncommon for the U.S. to detail intricacies of ongoing training missions with South Korea, but in recent weeks American military forces have made a deliberate effort to communicate the type of fire power it has ready to defend its ally in the event of conflict. Last week news of B-52 training flights was published, while days earlier reports of an American nuclear attack submarine taking part in naval drills was published.
U.S. officials said the flights are not designed to raise tensions, but reduce them by bolstering deterrence in the face of North Korea’s provocations. But North Korea sees ongoing U.S. military drills as part of a plot to train for a full-scale invasion of the country.
North Korea has not yet responded to news of today’s B-2 bomber drills. However, last week state media outlet KCNA said of the recent B-52 drills, “To bring strategic nuclear strike methods onto the Choson [Korean] Peninsula at a time when it is racing to the brink of war in an intolerable provocation and a test of our determination toward extreme hawkishness.”
This week, North Korea put its military on the highest level of alert possible and cut a second military hotline. Today a report published by state media outlet KCNA added to tensions by saying that the North Korean military was preparing to “blow up the strongholds of aggression…through precision strikes no matter where they are.”
Japan responded to North Korea’s new state of high alert earlier this week by putting it’s own military on full-alert. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told Kyodo News yesterday, ”We strongly urge (Pyongyang) not to undertake any provocative acts”.
Despite the rhetorical increase in tension, a Chosun Ilbo report today said that North Korean tour operators told Chinese colleagues today, “Don’t worry. There’ll be no war on the Korean Peninsula, so send as many tourists as possible.”