SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military flew advanced bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula and near Japan in drills with South Korean and Japanese warplanes on Monday, three days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan.
The United States often sends powerful military aircraft in a show of force in times of heightened animosities with North Korea. The North launched its latest missile as it protested against tough new U.N. sanctions over its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.
Monday's flyovers involved two B-1Bs and four F-35Bs from the U.S. military and four F-15K fighter jets from South Korea, according to the South Korean and U.S. militaries. The U.S. and South Korean planes flew across the Korean Peninsula and practiced attacks by releasing live weapons at a firing range in South Korea, the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement.
The U.S. warplanes also conducted formation training with Japanese fighter jets over waters near the southern island of Kyushu, according to the Pacific Command.
Since Kim Jong Un took power in North Korea in late 2011, his nation has tested weapons at a torrid pace. The country flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. Its nuclear test in September was its most powerful to date.
Many experts say it's only a matter of time until Kim achieves his stated objective of possessing reliable nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking anywhere in the mainland U.S.
State media on Saturday quoted Kim as saying that North Korea's final goal "is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option" for the North.
Alarmed by North Korea's advancing weapons programs, many conservatives in South Korea have called for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the South. But the liberal-leaning government of President Moon Jae-in said it has no intention of requesting that the U.S. bring back such weapons.
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo told lawmakers on Monday that it is "not proper" to reintroduce U.S. nuclear weapons. He previously said the idea should be "deeply considered" by the allies, inflaming already-heated debate on the issue.