North Korea warned on Tuesday morning that it would take “quick, overwhelming action” following the deployment of a U.S. Air Force nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress to the Korean Peninsula as part of joint exercises with South Korean warplanes.
The bomber, which is capable of flying at high altitudes and subsonic speeds, has been the workhorse of the U.S. military and a key component of the nuclear triad since it first entered service more than 60 years ago.
More modern aircraft were introduced in later decades, including the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit. But the B-52 has been steadily upgraded and improved, and it remains the backbone of the U.S. bomber force.
“In the latest U.S.-ROK combined air training event, ROK Air Force F-15’s and F-16’s escorted the U.S. B-52 strategic bomber as it entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone and conducted combined flight operations,” United States Forces Korea (USFK) announced.
“The training offered the alliance an opportunity to improve interoperability between the ROK and U.S by demonstrating a combined defense capability and providing extended deterrence in the defense of the Korean Peninsula,” USFK added.
“The U.S. remains committed to peace and prosperity through the region to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific, and our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea remains ironclad.”
Show Of Force
Monday’s air drills were also meant to serve as a deterrent to North Korean aggression, The Hill reported. Pyongyang test-fired an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles last year while planning to grow its nuclear arsenal. Washington and Seoul have already announced plans to hold the largest joint military drills seen in the region in five years.
Those exercises are slated to begin on March 13 and run for an 11-day period. U.S. and South Korean forces will conduct air, land, sea, space, cyber, and special operations drills. The last scheduled springtime exercises in the region were canceled by then-President Donald Trump in 2018.
The move is expected to infuriate North Korea, which views such exercises as provocations and a threat to its national security.
In the past, Pyongyang has reacted by test-firing ballistic and cruise missiles.
Strong Reaction to Strong Deterrence
Pyongyang has already condemned Monday’s joint patrol involving the B-52 bomber.
“We keep our eye on the restless military moves by the U.S. forces and the South Korean puppet military and are always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time according to our judgment,” Kim Yo Jong, sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said in a statement carried by state media.
She further added, “The demonstrative military moves and all sorts of rhetoric by the U.S. and South Korea, which go so extremely frantic as not to be overlooked, undoubtedly provide (North Korea) with conditions for being forced to do something to cope with them.”
In a separate statement released to the media on Tuesday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the deployment of the U.S. B-52 bomber to the region a reckless provocation that pushes the situation on the peninsula “deeper into the bottomless quagmire.”
However, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense has also taken a hard line, stating that it and the United States will step up such drills as a way to achieve “peace through strength.”
The U.S. Air Force already deployed B-1B Lancer bombers earlier this year as a demonstration of Washington’s commitment to its regional ally.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.