Two US supersonic B-1 Lancer strategic bombers flew over the South Korea as a mark of solidarity with the country. This comes just a week after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test.
The two bombers jets conducted a low-altitude flight over Osan Air Base in South Korea, which is 77 km (48 miles) from the Demilitarised Zone border with the North and about 40 km (25 miles) from the South’s capital Seoul.
The bombers, capable of carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons among U.S. Air Force aircraft, were escorted by South Korean and US fighter jets as they conducted the low speed flight over Osan.
The flight was watched by the commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, General Vincent Brooks, and the South’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lee Sun-jin.
“Today’s demonstration provides just one example of the full range of military capabilities available to this alliance. It is a deep arsenal and it is a part of our efforts to strengthen and extend our extended deterrence,” Brooks said at the air base after the fly past.
“As we have warned multiple times, if North Korea conducts a military provocation, they’ll be met at a firm response from us that will shake the very foundation of the regime,” said Lee.
US envoy on North Korea Sung Kim called for a swift and strong response against Pyongyang from the United Nations. But the US also said that it is open to authentic, meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang on ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The scheduled fly-over was delayed from Monday (September 12) due to weather conditions in Guam, where the bombers are stationed.
On Monday, South Korea had said that the North was ready to conduct an additional nuclear test after setting off its most powerful blast on Friday.
The test ratcheted up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations have been powerless in containing, as the North continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, China has asked all sides to avoid taking steps that will increase tension after US bombers’ flypast.
“I think China’s position is very clear. In the present situation we hope that all relevant parties can remain rational and exercise restraint and not provoke each other causing regional tensions to keep rising. Because if there is a vicious cycle of tensions continuing to rise and mutual provocations, it will not be in anyone’s interest,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
China and Russia, who strongly opposed a recent decision by the United States and South Korea to deploy an advanced anti-missile system in the South to counter the North’s missile threat, have shown reluctance to back further sanctions.
(with inputs from agencies)