The United States flew two B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, its Air Force said, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Asia.
That was reported by Yonhap.
The pair of bombers conducted sequenced bilateral missions with South Korean fighters and Japanese fighters, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.
“The two B-1B Lancers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and transited south of Korea and west of Japan to integrate with Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) fighters,” it said. “The Lancers then transited overland to Korea to integrate with Republic of Korea fighters in the Yellow Sea. Upon completion of bilateral integration, the aircraft returned to their respective home stations.”
The mission was planned in advance and not in response to any current event, it added.
Trump is set to embark on his first official visit to Asia on Friday. The White House has said the trip will largely focus on ways to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The 12-day trip will include stops in South Korea, Japan, and China.
South Korea’s military also said that the U.S. bombers conducted simulated air-to-ground bombing drills over the Pilseung shooting range in Gangwon Province. They are known to have been escorted by two South Korean F-16K fighter jets.
“B-1B bombers have flown over the Korean Peninsula once or twice per month,” a military source said. “The move is part of efforts to enhance rotational deployments of U.S. strategic assets to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
In Pyongyang, North Korea slammed the exercise as an attempt to “threaten and blackmail” the regime.
“The frenzied U.S. scheme of threats and blackmail, which aims to crush our republic with nuclear (weapons) continues in November as it did in October,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said hours before the U.S. announcement.
The bombers flew over Okinawa, Japan, and then the southern South Korean island of Jeju, before changing direction and heading toward the East Sea, it said.
Under the escort of South Korean fighter jets, the U.S. airmen practiced dropping nuclear bombs on “key” North Korean targets set up on a South Korean shooting range, it added.