Thu, Sep 22, 2016 - Page 1 News List

US Air Force bombers fly over S Korea near border with North in show of force

Reuters, OSAN, South Korea

Two US supersonic bombers yesterday flew over South Korea, with one of them landing at an air base 40km south of Seoul, the second such flight since North Korea’s nuclear test on Sept. 9.

US Forces Korea said the flight by a pair of B-1B Lancer strategic bombers based in Guam was a show of force, and of US commitment to preserve security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.

The US, which has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, flew two B-1Bs on Tuesday last week escorted by US and South Korean fighter jets, in a show of solidarity with Seoul.

The North condemned the earlier flight as an armed provocation that mobilized “ill-famed nuclear killing tools.”

It did not immediately respond to yesterday’s flight.

The US Air Force said yesterday’s flight was the closest ever to North Korea by a B-1B.

“Today marks the first time the airframe has landed on the Korean Peninsula in 20 years, as well as conducting the closest flight near North Korea ever,” the US Air Force said on its Web site, which also showed a B-1B landing at the base in South Korea.

The South’s Yonhap News Agency said the aircraft flew over a US live-fire training site in the Pocheon area bordering the North.

North Korea has ignored global condemnation of its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, and this week said it had successfully tested a new rocket engine that would be used to launch satellites, again in violation of UN sanctions.

The leaders of the US and China, which is the North’s main diplomatic ally and economic benefactor, condemned the latest nuclear test and pledged to step up cooperation at the UN and in law enforcement channels.

UN diplomats said the two countries have begun discussions on a possible UN resolution in response to the latest nuclear test, but China has not said directly whether it would support tougher steps against North Korea.

China, which has objected to a planned US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in the South to counter the North’s missile threat, called on “all parties to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could further escalate tensions.”

South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn told the South Korean National Assembly that Seoul wanted existing UN sanctions against Pyongyang tightened through the removal of loopholes that allow the North to trade in minerals for subsistence.

North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate this year, beginning with its fourth nuclear test in January and including the launch of a satellite in February that was widely seen as a test of long-range ballistic missile technology.

The North’s test of a new rocket engine for satellite launchers this week was believed to be part of a long-range missile program, according to the South’s military.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered preparations for the launch of a satellite “as soon as possible” on the basis of the successful test, its state media reported.

North Korea this month fired three missiles that flew about 1,000km, and last month tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile that experts said showed considerable progress.

In June it also launched an intermediate-range missile that experts said marked a technological advance for the isolated state after several failed tests.

South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo told the National Assembly that the North was developing all types of missiles, from short to long-range, and its advances were “considerable.”

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