The United States Air Force announced it is sending two B-2B Spirit stealth bombers to support Exercise in . began flying bombers over , amid rising tensions with North Korea, Pentagon officials said today. Pentagon press secretary George Little said one flew over South Korea on Friday, March 8 and another mission flew Tuesday 19th, this time the bomber flew at low altitude, and was clearly visible from the ground. In response, North Korea warned of “strong military counter-action” if the U.S. again flies bombers over the Korean peninsula.
The B-52 Stratofortress can carry conventional and nuclear weapons, including air-launched cruise, however, according to the Pentagon, the bombers on the mission supporting the Korean exercise are not armed with such weapons.
The bombers are supporting exercise. Participation of such aircraft in international exercises is not uncommon but the Pentagon used the occasion to draw attention to the fact that B-52 bombers could provide an American nuclear “umbrella” over South Korea and Japan, deterring a potential missile attacks from North Korea. “We’re deeply concerned about North Koreans’ behavior and rhetoric,” Little said.
Exercise Foal Eagle is an annual combined and joint unit tactical field training exercise conducted jointly by the U.S. and Republic of Korea. The exercise began March 1 and lasts through April 30, testing the readiness and operational capabilities of the forces in the Korean peninsula. The exercise comprises a series of 20 separate but inter-related joint and combined field training exercises conducted by Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea components spanning ground, air, naval, expeditionary, and special operations. Approximately 10,000 U.S forces (mostly units coming from abroad) along with ROK military personnel are participate in the exercise.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is visiting Seoul this week. Carter said that the provocations that are part of a continuing North Korean pattern pose a serious threat to the United States, to South Korea and to regional stability. “If the North Koreans think this kind of thing is going to get them anywhere, they’re mistaken,” Carter said. “The only effect it’s having is to bring down upon North Korea the opprobrium of the entire world.”
The United States is working with friends and allies around the world to employ an integrated response to these unacceptable provocations, Carter added. The response includes United Nations Security Council resolutions with unprecedentedly strong sanctions against North Korea, and more unilateral sanctions of great effect, and the nation’s resulting progressive isolation, he said.
“In the military sphere, the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to the Republic of Korea,” the deputy defense secretary observed. “Together, we are taking important steps to advance the alliance military capabilities.” In particular, the United States remains committed to extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and to ensuring that all capabilities remain available to the alliance, he added. The B-52 flights over Korea reiterated his statement.