A day after North Korea fired a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “sudden launching drill,” the United States conducted joint air drills with South Korea and Japan on Sunday that involved strategic bombers.
The drill, in which American B-1B bombers were accompanied by South Korean F-35A, F-15K, and U.S. F-16 fighters, was described as showing off the allies’ “overwhelming” defence capabilities and readiness posture by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The South’s military released a statement saying that the exercise “ strengthened the combined operation capability and affirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defence of the Korean Peninsula and the implementation of extended deterrence.”
After the most recent North Korean missile fell within its Exclusive Economic Zone, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced in a statement that it conducted tactical exercises over the Sea of Japan using B-1 bombers and F-16s from the U.S. Armed Forces (EEZ).
According to the ministry, “This bilateral exercise reaffirms the strong will between Japan and the United States to respond to any situation, the readiness of (Japan’s Self Defense Forces) and U.S. Armed Forces, and further strengthens the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.”
The air exercises take place a day after North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the ocean off the west coast of Japan, in response to a threat from South Korea and the United States that they would respond harshly to planned military exercises.
North Korea reportedly performed a “sudden launching drill” on Saturday as “real proof” of its efforts to transform the “capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces into an irresistible one,” according to the country’s state-run media outlet KCNA.
Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, issued yet another warning and charged that the United States was attempting to use the U.N. Security Council as “tool for its heinous hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.
Pyongyang threatened on Friday a “unprecedentedly persistent, strong” response as South Korea and the United States prepared for their annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the growing nuclear and missile threat that the North is posing.
Saturday’s missile launch was the North’s first since Jan. 1.