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US deploys B-1B bombers in drills with South Korea and Japan

SEOUL, South Korea: The United States has deployed B-1B bombers for exercises with South Korea and Japan, as the three allies have intensified their responses to threats from North Korea.

This week, a U.S. B-1B flew alongside South Korean FA-50 jets and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters as part of the ongoing Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, according to South Korea’s defense ministry. This marked the 10th such flight by an American bomber this year. While North Korea frequently denounces these annual military exercises as preparations for war, the allies emphasize that the drills are defensive in nature.

In a separate event, two U.S. Air Force B-1Bs participated in joint drills alongside 12 Japanese fighters, including four F-15 jets, as reported by Japan’s defense ministry.

The U.S.-led bomber exercises come shortly after North Korea’s unsuccessful attempt at a satellite launch.

The U.S. and South Korea initiated the Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises last week, which are joint large-scale military maneuvers aimed at improving their preparedness against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats.

This week’s exercises showcased what the allies describe as “extended deterrence,” showcasing a united defense posture against North Korea’s recent space launch vehicle flights. South Korea’s defense ministry stated that this was a demonstration of their readiness.

Tokyo’s defense ministry reiterated that the U.S.-Japan joint air drills conducted over the Sea of Japan this week reaffirmed their “readiness to respond to any situation,” particularly in light of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches.
Japan also engaged in a trilateral naval missile defense exercise alongside the U.S. and South Korea this week.

Also this week, on the occasion of Navy Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the United States and its allies of heightening the risk of nuclear war, referring to an August 18 summit at Camp David between the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

Kim was quoted by state media as saying, “Owing to the reckless confrontational moves of the U.S. and other hostile forces, the waters off the Korean Peninsula have been reduced to the world’s biggest war hardware concentration spot, the most unstable waters with the danger of a nuclear war.”