US, allies display military might in direct response to North Korean missile test
U.S. Pacific Command(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — Days after North Korea launched a missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, U.S. fighter jets and bombers conducted a show of force alongside Japanese and South Korean allies, according to the U.S. military.
U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B fighter jets from Japan joined Air Force B-1B bombers from Guam on Wednesday for the first time, which included flying over the Korean Peninsula and practicing attack capabilities with South Korean aircraft.
The U.S. and South Korean planes released live weapons at the Pilsung training area, a bombing range located in South Korea. The F-35 is the newest and most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military.
The 10-hour mission was in direct response to North Korea’s test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Monday “amid rising tension over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs,” U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement on Thursday.
The United States assessed the missile to be a KN-17, or what North Korea calls a Hwasong 12.
It was the 13th ballistic missile test North Korea has conducted this year, but it was the first time a missile was launched over one of Japan’s four major islands since 2009.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”
Thursday marks the conclusion of a 10-day exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces to enhance readiness on the peninsula. More than 17,000 U.S. troops participated in this year’s annual exercise.
The more-than-28,000 U.S. forces in South Korea have the motto “Fight Tonight,” signaling their mission to combat North Korean aggression at a moment’s notice.
But in Washington, top U.S. officials have reiterated that the United States is seeking a diplomatically led effort with North Korea.
President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that talking “is not the answer” in regard to countering the North Korean threat. But Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Trump’s own press secretary, Sarah Sanders, were quick to clarify his comment.
Mattis told reporters prior to his meeting with the South Korean defense minister that the United States is “never out of diplomatic solutions,” while Sanders massaged the president’s message, saying all options remain on the table.
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