U.S. and Japanese fighter jets fly alongside B-52 bombers over the Sea of Japan, Friday, April 14, 2023.

U.S. and Japanese fighter jets fly alongside B-52 bombers over the Sea of Japan, Friday, April 14, 2023. (Japan Air Self-Defense Force)

U.S. B-52 bombers flew with Japanese and South Korean fighter jets Friday in separate exercises as a show of unity intended to deter would-be adversaries, the Defense Department said Friday.

The joint aerial training comes amid elevated tensions with North Korea and China.

North Korea has stepped up its pace of missile testing, including the launch Thursday of what it called a “new type” of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

Chinese military aircraft have been making ever more frequent forays into Taiwan’s air space. Earlier this week China completed a three-day air and sea exercise that simulated encircling Taiwan in a manner that could be employed in taking the island by force.

The announcements of the B-52 training flights did not explicitly link them to the recent developments with China and North Korea, but the news releases emphasized that deterrence options are readily available to the U.S. and its allies for any contingency.

On Friday, the South Korean air force and U.S. Air Force conducted combined aerial training with B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the Korean Peninsula, the Air Force said in a news release.

During the exercise, South Korean F-35 fighter jets and American F-16 fighters escorted the bombers as they entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone, the release said.

The Air Force did not disclose the number of B-52s participating.

“The training offered the alliance its latest opportunity to further strengthen its interoperability by demonstrating a combined defense capability and providing extended deterrence in the defense of the Korean Peninsula,” the news release said.

On the same day, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command deployed two U.S. B-52s and four F-35 fighters that integrated with four Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters over the Sea of Japan. The bilateral air exercise exemplified “our alliance’s ability to quickly and decisively respond to threats against Japan,” the command said in a news release.

While the releases did not indicate where the B-52s had originated, they likely had taken off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Four B-52s deployed there in late March as part of the Air Force’s ongoing bomber task force missions. They are assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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