In an effort to deter an increasingly aggressive North Korea, the U.S. has sent America’s newest strike fighter the F-35B to South Korea for the first time to take part in joint training, The Korea Herald reported.
The exercises, which reportedly already began last week, included several F-35Bs conducing bombing practice on the Korean Peninsula.
The deployment of stealth strike fighter comes as Pyongyang is conducting an aggressive schedule of nuclear weapons program tests, including that of a ballistic missile engine on Friday, CNN reported.
If it manages to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea could threaten the continental United States.
Heightening the tension is a series of bulletins issued by North Korean state-run media threatening preemptive strikes on U.S. forces in the area.
The F-35, which had been controversial due to early performance problems and a very expensive price tag, is now the most advanced air-to-ground fighter available to American. allies, according to the Washington Examiner.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, who commands 28,000 American troops in Korea, said in a statement that "The deployment of the most advanced aircraft the USMC has in their inventory to Korea is yet another example of how dedicated the United States is to supporting" the alliance with South Korea, according to The Korean Herald, adding that "the training . . . helps ensure our readiness and is critical for our alliance as we maintain security and stability on the Korean Peninsula."
The U.S. is conducting a two-pronged strategy. While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attempts to boost the American ability to deter a North Korean attack, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is conducting a diplomatic push with China and regional allies to forge a way to curb the regime's weapons program.
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