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U.S. Air Force conducts joint drills with Japan near Korean Peninsula

U.S. Air Force conducts joint drills with Japan near Korean Peninsula

Posted April. 24, 2020 07:38,   

Updated April. 24, 2020 07:38


The U.S. Air Force conducted a joint air exercise Thursday for its B-1B supersonic strategic bombers and the fighter jets of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in the Japanese territory close to the Korean Peninsula. Reportedly, the B-1B Lancer bombers flew over the skies only 800 to 900 kilometers away from Wonsan of Gangwon Province, the purported resting place for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un whose health has recently become a hot subject of speculation.

The last time the B-1B bombers dubbed the “Swan of Death” were openly deployed near the Korean Peninsula was two years and four months ago when Vigilant Ace, the U.S.-ROK joint air drill took place in December 2017. The strategic asset most feared by North Korea was sent forth near the peninsula at such a sensitive juncture with the prolonged absence of Kim Jong Un, and how the North will respond to this is gathering keen attention.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command revealed the photos on its website on the day and said the “bomber-fighter integration showcases ironclad alliance and demonstrates dynamic force employment,” adding that the exercise is aimed at strengthening the response capability of the U.S. and Japanese military and improving topographic mastery. Such comments suggest that the joint exercise by Washington and Tokyo is designed to simulate a regional crisis such as provocations of North Korea.

Many experts say that the employment of the B-1B bomber-fighters near the peninsula is a saber-rattling to keep the North at bay. They say it is Washington’s warning against the communist regime, which has escalated the tensions on the Korean Peninsula by firing a series of newly-developed weapons and cruise missiles targeting South Korea. “Some of the intention behind the drill appears to preempt North Korea’s imminent military muscle-flexing that is designed to dispel the rumor surrounding the ill health of its young leader,” said a military news source.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com