Allies’ bomber mission aims to signal ‘overwhelming capabilities’ to North Korea
Stars and Stripes March 7, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An American bomber escorted by South Korean fighters flew west of the Korean Peninsula on Monday, the latest in a series of airpower drills that North Korea deemed “muscle flexing.”
The B-52H Stratofortress out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., flew alongside South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and KF-16s over the Yellow Sea to display the two countries’ “critical and overwhelming capabilities … to deter and respond to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats,” the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement Monday.
The flights demonstrated “a combined defense capability and providing extended deterrence in the defense of the Korean Peninsula,” U.S. Forces Korea said in its own statement that day.
The U.S. and South Korea have routinely launched bomber escort missions around the peninsula to answer North Korea’s roughly 75 missile tests, a one-year record, in 2022.
The communist regime has made three ballistic missile tests so far this year; it most recently fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast on Feb. 20.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called Monday’s bomber escort mission “a reckless military provocation” and “worrying muscle-flexing,” according to a statement Tuesday in the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
“The recent joint air drill … clearly shows that the U.S. scheme to use nuclear weapons against [North Korea] is being carried forward at the level of an actual war,” the North’s Foreign Ministry said. "The danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is turning from an imaginary stage to a realistic one due to the irresponsible deeds of the U.S. and South Korea …”
Kim Yo Jong, a senior government official and sister of regime leader Kim Jong Un, said the U.S. interception of a North Korean missile would constitute “a clear declaration of war,” according to another KCNA statement Tuesday.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries together are monitoring North Korea and report no unusual troop movements, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a news conference Tuesday in Seoul. South Korean officials customarily speak to the media on the condition of anonymity.
The bomber drills were held as the U.S. and South Korea prepare to begin Freedom Shield, a large-scale joint exercise that runs March 13-23.
Although troop figures were not disclosed by the two countries, the South’s defense ministry said it will be the largest exercise in years and include personnel from U.N. Command and the Combined Forces Command.