Reuters

US flies bombers over Korean peninsula after missile launch, Trump ‘disappointed’ with China

31 July 2017

 

Two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers fly a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base.

The United States has flown two B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force in response to North Korea’s recent missile tests, the US Air Force said in a statement.

Key points:

  • The two bombers were joined by Japanese, South Korean fighter jets
  • General says US ready to respond quickly with “overwhelming force”
  • Donald Trump slams China for “doing nothing” for the United States

The US also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defence system located in Alaska.

On Friday, North Korea announced it conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland, drawing a sharp warning from US President Donald Trump.

The B-1B flight, reportedly conducted on Saturday, was in direct response to the missile test and the previous July 3 launch of the Hwansong-14 rocket, the US statement said.

The bombers took off from a US air base in Guam, and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise, according to the statement.

“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing”.

What is an ICBM and how far can one travel?

  • Intercontinental ballistic (ICBM) missiles can fly thousands of kilometres and carry nuclear weapons
  • The missiles are similar in construction to rockets which launch people into space
  • The US has numerous interceptors in place, but their effectiveness to bring down ICBMs is yet to be tested

The US has in the past used overflights of the supersonic B1-B “Lancer” bomber as a show of force in response to North Korean missile or nuclear tests.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally supervised the midnight test launch of the missile on Friday night and said it was a “stern warning” for the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tried to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea’s state television broadcast pictures of the launch, showing the missile lifting off in a fiery blast in darkness and Mr Kim cheering with military aides.

‘China does NOTHING for us, just talk’: Trump

China, the North’s main ally, said it opposed North Korea’s missile launches, which it said violate United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to curb Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs.

“At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

However, President Trump, in a pair of tweets, said he was “very disappointed” in China and they had done nothing for the United States with regards to North Korea.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet …” Mr Trump said in one tweet.

“…they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” he added in a subsequent tweet.

The Hwasong-14, named after the Korean word for Mars, reached an altitude of 3,725 kilometres and flew 998 kilometres for 47 minutes and 12 seconds before landing in the waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast, KCNA said.

Western experts said calculations based on that flight data and estimates from the US, Japanese and South Korean militaries showed the missile was capable of going as far into the United States as Denver and Chicago.

David Wright of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog post that if it had flown on a standard trajectory, the missile would have had a range of 10,400 kilometres.

The US Missile Defence Agency said a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, system located in Kodiak, Alaska, was successfully tested on Saturday night, Alaska time.

It said that a medium-range ballistic missile was air-launched over the Pacific, and that the THAAD system detected, tracked and intercepted the target.

North Korea refers to the United States as its sworn enemy in its propaganda, and has done so since the 1950-53 Korean War in which the Soviet and Chinese-backed North fought against the US-backed South.

The isolated country often shows mock-up images of a missile hitting key US landmarks in its media.

 Reuters