U.S bombers fly over South Korea after North Korean ICBM Test. The United States is in a show of force against North Korea following the country’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test on Friday.
The B-1 bombers were escorted by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets as they performed a low-pass over an air base near the South Korean capital of Seoul before returning to the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.
North Korea said it conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland, drawing a sharp warning from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The B-1B flight was in direct response to the missile test and the previous July 3 launch of the “Hwansong-14” rocket, the U.S. statement said. The South Korean air force said the flight was conducted early on Sunday.
The bombers took off from a U.S. air base in Guam, and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise, according to the statement.
Analysts say flight data from North Korea’s second ICBM test conducted Friday night showed that a broader part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang’s weapons.
Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said in a statement Saturday night ET that “North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability.”
“Diplomacy remains the lead; however, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario,” O’Shaughnessy said. “If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”
The United States often sends powerful warplanes in times of heightened animosities with North Korea. B-1 bombers have been sent to South Korea for flyovers several times this year in response to North Korea’s banned missile tests, and also following the death of a U.S. college student last month after he was released by North Korean in a coma.
One of two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flies a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017. U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo/Handout via REUTERS.
The Hwasong-14 ICBM, which the North first tested on July 4, is the highlight of several new weapons systems Pyongyang launched this year. They include an intermediate range missile the North says is capable of hitting Alaska and Hawaii and a solid-fuel midrange missile, which analysts say can be fired faster and more secretly than liquid-fuel missiles.
North Korea on Friday launched an ICBM that traveled around 1,000 km, or around 621 miles, before crashing into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the U.S. military said.
A South Korean military official said the missile’s estimated firing range has increased since the first launch, and the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that based available information about the missile test’s trajectory a missile could “easily reach the U.S. West Coast and a number of major U.S. cities.”
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006, including two last year. It conducted its first ICBM test earlier this month.
The B-1 bombers took off from Guam and flew to Japanese airspace, where they were joined by Japanese F-2 fighter jets, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said.
The U.S. bombers then flew over South Korean airspace and were joined by South Korean jets, and the U.S. bombers performed a low pass over Osan Air Base before returning to Guam, according to the Pacific Air Forces.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally supervised the midnight test launch of the missile on Friday night and said it was a “stern warning” for the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tries to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
North Korea’s state television broadcast pictures of the launch, showing the missile lifting off in a fiery blast in darkness and Kim cheering with military aides.
China, the North’s main ally, said it opposed North Korea’s missile launches, which it said violate United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to curb Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs.
“At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution, to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.