The U.S. Air Force carried out simulated bombing exercises in South Korea on Wednesday, in a show of force a week after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile it says is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
The B-1B Lancer strategic bomber and F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets joined South Korean aircraft for the drill at the Pilsung Firing Range, part of a massive five-day exercise that began Monday.
“Through the exercise, the South Korean and U.S. air forces have demonstrated the alliance’s strong will and capability for strong retaliation against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
North Korea launched its new Hwasong-15 missile a week ago, claiming to have achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.
The Vigilant Ace exercise, which was scheduled before the missile launch, involves 230 aircraft and about 12,000 service members from the U.S. and South Korea. Pyongyang, which believes the drills are preparation for invasion, has warned that it will “seriously consider” countermeasures.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that his country and its isolated northern neighbor were “on thin ice,” but that he was optimistic of a peaceful solution to the nuclear and missile crisis.
“The South-North Korean relations are still not so good. The tension between the South and the North is at its peak, and so it is a very cautious situation as if we are walking on thin ice,” Moon said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
“But I am not all pessimistic. I believe a crisis may well turn into an opportunity, and the night is the darkest just before the dawn. When we overcome this ongoing crisis, I am sure it will turn into an opportunity to dramatically improve the South-North relations,” he added.
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