Tags: korea | nuclear | bombers | war

North Warns of War as US Flies Nuclear Bombers Over Korea

Image: North Warns of War as US Flies Nuclear Bombers Over Korea

Thursday, 28 Mar 2013 08:04 AM

By Lisa Barron

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The United States sent two nuclear-capable stealth bombers on a practice run over South Korea on Thursday, just a day after North Korea’s dictatorship warned that war could break out “at any moment.”

The military’s unusual confirmation of the training run — in which munitions were dropped on a South Korean island — was seen as a warning to Pyongyang that the United States will stand behind its ally despite increased saber-rattling from the North’s young leader Kim Jong Un.

The two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers made a nonstop 13,000-mile round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, showing the ability of the United States to “provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region” and to “conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” said the American command in Seoul.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterated Washington’s “unwavering” commitment to defend the South in a phone conversation with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, reported The New York Times.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said Thursday that the “extended deterrence” Hagel reaffirmed for South Korea included “nuclear umbrella” and “missile defense capabilities,” adding the two countries also agreed to develop “customized” plans to deal with threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Tensions with the North have been rising since Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February. Kim’s regime has warned of pre-emptive strikes at Washington and Seoul for conducting “hostile” joint military exercises and supporting new U.N. sanctions against North Korea.
And Thursday’s show of strength is likely to ratchet up tensions still further.

The United States ran B-52 practice sorties over South Korea earlier this month. The Pentagon said the B-52 and B-2 missions were part of its Foal Eagle joint military drill with the South, which began on March 1 and will continue through April 30, according to the Times.

Tensions between the communist North — one of the most secretive and isolated nations on Earth — and its neighbor have grown since Kim took power a year ago. Kim, who is only 29, succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, who had ruled the country for 14 years, after succeeding his own father, Kim Il Sung.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang said it would cut off the last channels of communication with the South, warning that war could break out “at any moment.” The North has already stopped responding to calls on the hotline to the U.S. military that supervises the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, reported Reuters.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying, “Under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides.

“There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and the U.S. and between the north and the south.”

The Pentagon described the move as “yet another provocative and unconstructive step.”

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The “dialogue channel” is used on a daily basis to process South Koreans working in the Kaesong industrial project where 123 South Korean firms employ more than 50,000 North Koreans to make millions of dollars worth of textiles and household goods. It is a key source of hard currency for the North.

The military spokesman apparently did not mention Kaesong. According to the Times, cross-border traffic operated normally on Thursday.

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