In a show of force sending a message to increasingly hostile North Korea, the United States Air Force is bringing out their big guns as the Pentagon said Monday that B-52 bombers are making patrol flights over South Korean airspace as part of their joint military exercises.
“Despite challenges with fiscal constraints, training opportunities remain important to ensure U.S. and ROK (Republic of Korea) forces are battle-ready and trained to employ airpower to deter aggression, defend the Republic of Korea, and defeat any attack against the alliance,” said Pentagon spokesperson George Little during a meeting with reporters Monday.
As part of the annual Foal Eagle training exercises, the Pentagon said the eight-engine bomber planes first flew March 8 and are scheduled to fly again over South Korea on Tuesday.
“This mission highlights the extended deterrence and conventional capabilities of the B-52 Stratofortress,” said Little.
The long-range, subsonic, jet-powered aircrafts are flying out of Andersen Air Force base in Guam as part of what the US Pacific Command refers to as a “continuous bomber presence” in the region.
“These… missions are routine and reiterate the U.S. commitment to the security of our allies and partners,” explained Little.
The military exercises and the B-52 flights come amid growing tension between North Korea and the United States, after the UN Security Council agreed to impose tougher economic sanctions on the Kim Jong Un-led nation following its latest nuclear test in February that defied UN orders.
In response to the UN sanctions, North Korea has threatened the US and its neighbor South Korea of a pre-emptive nuclear attack. It also said it was nullifying the armistice agreement that halted the war between the two Koreas.
US officials, however, do not believe North Korea owns the capacity to strike the US, though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last week the deployment of additional ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska and California.