The US said it is flying training missions of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea, in a clear signal to North Korea at a time of escalating military tensions.
The flights — part of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises — should be seen as underscoring US commitment and capacity to defend Seoul against an attack from the North, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
In response to UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test last month, North Korea has warned of a “second Korean war” and threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the South and the US.
Little said a B-52 from Andersen Air Force base in Guam flew over South Korea on March 8 as part of a military exercise.
“The B-52 Stratofortress can perform a variety of missions including carrying precision-guided conventional or nuclear ordnance,” he said on Monday.
B-52s have taken part in annual exercises before, but Little said the Pentagon wanted to underline their use this time given the current, heightened tensions.
That message was echoed in Seoul on Monday by visiting US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who promised to provide South Korea with every available military resource “offered by the US nuclear umbrella.”
Another B-52 training mission was carried yesterday, Yonhap cited a South Korean official as saying.
Despite its growing isolation and the stepped-up international pressure, North Korea insists its plan to develop a viable nuclear deterrent is “unshakeable” and non-negotiable.
On the first day of negotiations for a conventional weapons treaty at UN headquarters on Monday, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Ri Tong-il proclaimed the North’s “very proud and powerful” position as the latest nuclear state.
Ri also denounced what he termed a US policy of “nuclear blackmail” that he said would “in the long run give birth to more nuclear weapons states.”
Also on Monday, Pyongyang released a four-minute video titled Firestorms will rain on the Headquarters of War on its Web site.
The first two minutes used still photos of US fighter jets, B-52 bombers and aircraft carriers to portray the US as a nuclear power bullying Pyongyang.
“Second by second, the fuse of a nuclear war is burning,” a female narrator warned.
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