The US has sent a B-52H strategic bomber as well as F-22 stealth fighter jets to participate in joint military drills over South Korea on Tuesday, in what Pyongyang is sure to take as a significant provocation. It comes after the north has test-fired a record number of missiles, including ICMBs, this year - also amid live military exercises.
"South Korea, US conducted combined air drills involving US B-52H strategic bomber, F-22 stealth fighters," South Korea's Defense Ministry said in a statement, also confirming it is utilizing its own F-35A stealth jets and F-15K fighters for the aerial maneuvers with the US.
Yonhap News described based on the ministry statement, "The deployment of the B-52H and F-22 fighters this time is part of an effort to reinforce the credibility of the U.S.' extended deterrence."
The deployment comes a mere days after North Korea's weekend launch of a pair of ballistic missiles fired toward Japan, which set off emergency notifications across the large island-nation. Officially pacifist Japan has meanwhile announced its largest defense budget since WWII, having unveiled a $320 billion plan, which will involve development of long-range offensive missiles.
The Tuesday Korea-U.S. air drill near Jeju, the country's largest island off the southern tip of the peninsula.
"The purpose of joint South Korea-U.S. stealth fighter training is to strengthen the ability to respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," a Korean government source told regional media. "The training involves practicing strikes on North Korean high-value targets."
The Pentagon described the mission as part of "extended deterrence" over the South Korean capital.
The US flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets near South Korea today during joint air drills with Seoul -- a demonstration of US "extended deterrence," said Seoul.— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) December 20, 2022
Video via @ROK_MND: pic.twitter.com/90Lf6B6hVC
Likely Pyongyang will respond with more military muscle-flexing, including possibly with more drills near the border. It has already launched over 60 ballistic missiles so far this year. This reportedly included an ICBM launch on November 18. According to The New York Times' count, the country has "launched at least 90 ballistic and other missiles this year, more than in any previous year" - despite a UN ban.
Kim Jong Un's influential sister responded Tuesday, warning the US and South Korea to "behave carefully and think twice"...
Earlier Tuesday, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, used a slew of derisive terms — such as "malicious disparaging," "rubbish" and "dog barking" — when she dismissed the outside assessments that cast doubt on North Korea's spy satellite development and long-range missiles.
South Korean intelligence has for months been warning that the north is preparing its first nuclear test in over half a decade, but despite predictions which have been on since the summer, this has yet to materialize.