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US B-1B Bombers to Join Exercise in South Korea, Yonhap Says

Image: US B-1B Bombers to Join Exercise in South Korea, Yonhap Says
U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, top, and second from top, and South Korean fighter jets F-15K fly over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea in a previous exercise. (South Korean Defense Ministry via AP)

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 08:41 PM

The U.S. will deploy B-1B Lancer bombers to the Korean peninsula Wednesday as part of a joint exercise with South Korea involving 230 warplanes, Yonhap News said, citing an unidentified source.

A similar drill in September saw the aircraft fly the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, of any U.S. fighter or bomber in the 21st century. This prompted Pyongyang to say it had the right to shoot down U.S. strategic warplanes in international airspace as part of its right to self-defense under the United Nations charter.

The U.S. Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lori Hodge issued a statement saying it wouldn’t discuss future missions for operational security reasons. The U.S. "has maintained a rotational strategic bomber presence in the region for more than a decade," Hodge wrote.

The Guam-based long-range, multi-mission supersonic aircraft will conduct bombing drills with South Korean fighter jets, Yonhap said, without specifying the number of bombers joining the exercise. The Vigilant Ace 18 drills involve 230 aircraft and 12,000 American troops, in what North Korea has dubbed the largest-ever joint aerial exercise.

Retaliation Threat

North Korea, which last week launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, said ahead of the drills that it would consider the “highest-level hard-line countermeasure in history,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It referred to a similar statement in September, which Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said may include a ground-level test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea regularly cites military drills around the peninsula as justification for its nuclear and missile-testing program. The isolated regime on Nov. 29 launched an ICBM with improved technology that it said can deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the U.S, and claimed it had completed its nuclear force.

On Tuesday, a senior United Nations official began a four-day visit to the isolated state for talks with Ri and other officials. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman isn’t taking a message from the U.S., State Dept spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in a briefing.

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A similar drill in September saw the aircraft fly the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, of any U.S. fighter or bomber in the 21st century.
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2017-41-05
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 08:41 PM
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