US heavy bombers and stealth jet fighters took part in a joint live fire drill in South Korea on Thursday, intended as a show of force against the North after its latest missile launch.
“South Korean and US air forces conducted an air interdiction exercise in order to strongly cope with North Korea’s repeated firing of ballistic missiles and development of nuclear weapons,” the South’s air force said in a statement.
Two B-1B “Lancer” bombers from Guam and four F-35B stealth jet fighters from the Marine Corps’ Iwakuni airbase in Japan conducted the drill, with four South Korean jet fighters also taking part.
B-1B overflights of the peninsula from Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, infuriate the North, which cited them when it announced a plan to fire a salvo of missiles towards the island.
It was one of the moves that saw tensions spiral this month, along with a new set of UN Security Council sanctions, US President Donald Trump’s apocalyptic warning to rain “fire and fury” on Pyongyang, and culminating with the North firing a missile over Japan on Tuesday.
China Thursday condemned “destructive” calls for further sanctions, warning Japan, the US and Britain that diplomacy was needed to avert a crisis.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said sanctions alone “cannot fundamentally resolve the issue”, amid reports the three countries were pushing for new restrictions on North Korean oil imports and foreign workers.
“The current situation on the Korean peninsula is not a screenplay, it’s not a computer game. It is a real situation that directly bears on the security of the people on the peninsula and the whole regional peace and tranquility,” she said.
On a visit to Japan Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said London and Tokyo would work together to pressure North Korea “including by increasing the pace of sanctions” against Pyongyang.”
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