The United States deployed a B-52 bomber on a low-level flight over its ally South Korea in a show of force following North Korea’s nuclear test last week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un maintained that latest test was of a hydrogen bomb and said it was a self-defensive step against a U.S. threat of nuclear war.
North Korea’s fourth nuclear test angered both the United States and China, although the U.S. government and weapons experts doubt the North’s claim that the device was a hydrogen bomb.
The B-52, based in Guam and capable of carrying nuclear weapons, was flanked by two fighter planes, a U.S. F-16 and a South Korean F-15, in a low flight over Osan Air Base, before returning to Guam.
Osan is south of Seoul and roughly 100 km (62 miles) from the North Korean border. The flight was in response to recent provocative action by North Korea.
The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and to maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula, to include extended deterrence provided by our conventional forces and our nuclear umbrella.
Experts believe the North’s nuclear test, which produced a seismic tremor of 5.1, too small to be a proper hydrogen bomb test, was designed to set the stage for a rare general meeting later this year of its ruling Workers’ Party, the first since 1980.
After the North’s last test, in 2013, the United States sent a pair of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea. At the time, the North responded by threatening a nuclear attack on the United States.
The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and the United States has about 28,500 troops based in South Korea.
The United States has said it has no nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea. South Korea continued to conduct high-decibel propaganda broadcasts across the heavily militarised border into the North.
The North’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.