US B-1B strategic bombers in drills with South Korea on same day as North Korean missile launch
Tokyo, Japan CNN —US strategic bombers took part in joint air drills with South Korean forces on Sunday, the same day as North Korea carried out a suspected ballistic missile test, according to the South Korean military.
The exercise featured US B-1B strategic bombers, F-35A stealth fighters from the South Korean Air Force and F-16 fighters of the US Air Force, and was part of the Freedom Shield joint exercise, the military said in a press release.
News of the exercise came on the same day as North Korea launched a suspected ballistic missile into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, shortly after 11 a.m. local time, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense and the South Korean army.
However, the South Korean Defense Ministry would not confirm if the air training drill with the US bombers took place before or after the missile launch.
“The South Korea-US alliance maintains the best-combined defense posture in the face of North Korea’s continued regional instability,” the South Korean military said in its press release.
The suspected ballistic missile launched by North Korea on Sunday reached a maximum altitude of approximately 50km (31 miles) and flew a distance of approximately 800km (497 miles), according to Japan’s defense ministry.
It was fired from the Dongchang-ri area of North Pyongan province in North Korea and landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to the South Korean military.
Its leader Kim Jong Un has accused the US and South Korea of increasing tensions with its joint military drills.
The latest launch follows a flurry of missile tests by North Korea, including one of a long-range ballistic missile on Thursday as leaders from South Korea and Japan met in Tokyo, and the firing of two cruise missiles from a submarine and two short-range ballistic missiles days before.
The springtime joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea are the biggest war games the allies have staged in five years.
The state visit will be the second of Biden’s presidency, underscoring close ties between the US and South Korea, and will take place April 26.
The conservative Yoon and his administration have made strengthening the US-South Korea alliance a key foreign policy priority.