US bomber returns to Korean Peninsula for airpower demonstration
Stars and Stripes November 15, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An Air Force bomber returned to South Korean airspace with U.S. and South Korean fighter jets in tow Wednesday, nearly a month after one landed in the country for the first time in at least 30 years.
The B-52H Stratofortress bomber was escorted from Seoul to the Yellow Sea by an unspecified number of American F-35B Lightning IIs and F-16 Fighting Falcons, as well as South Korean F-35As and F-15K Slam Eagles, the Ministry of National Defense said in a news release Wednesday.
Reached by phone Wednesday, the ministry and the 7th Air Force declined to elaborate on the exercise.
Wednesday’s drill is the 12th appearance by a U.S. bomber over South Korea so far this year. The latest exercise was an example of the increased frequency of U.S. military assets in South Korea, the release said.
President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol agreed to deploy strategic military assets “in a timely and coordinated manner” following a summit in May, according to a joint statement at the time.
A nuclear-capable B-52H landed in South Korea on Oct. 18 and performed flyovers during Seoul’s Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, a biennial military convention hosted by the National Defense Ministry.
Five days later, that B-52H out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., flew with U.S., South Korean and Japanese fighter jets over the air-defense zones south of the Korean Peninsula, marking the first-ever air drill between the three countries.
In addition to Wednesday’s aerial demonstration, warships from the United States and South Korea conducted a naval drill in the East Sea, or the Sea of Japan, to hone their anti-submarine and maritime blocking capabilities.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta joined 10 South Korean warships, including the ROKS Seoae Ryu Sungryong, a destroyer equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system, for a four-day exercise that kicked off Monday, according to a Ministry of National Defense news release Tuesday.
The drills come two days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik met in Seoul for an annual conference between senior U.S. and South Korean defense officials.
Following the meeting, Austin told reporters that Seoul and Washington’s alliance had never been better and that South Korea’s defense included “the full range of our nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities.”
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that the regime successfully tested two solid-fuel engines for an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Pyongyang has fired 21 ballistic missiles in 14 days of testing so far this year.