The U.S. military flew two Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force late on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, according to Reuters.
The two B-1B bombers were accompanied by two F-15K fighters from the South Korean military after leaving their base in Guam, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a news release .
In a separate statement, the U.S. military said that Japanese fighters had also joined the drill, making it the first night-time combined exercise for the U.S. bombers with fighters from Japan and South Korea.
After entering South Korean airspace, the two bombers carried out air-to-ground missile drills in waters off the east coast of South Korea, then flew over the South to waters between it and China to repeat the drill, the South’s release said.
The South Korean military explained this was part of a regular exercise to bolster military defenses and also to display the alliance between the United States and South Korea.
U.S. Air Force Major Patrick Applegate said, according to Reuters, “Flying and training at night with our allies in a safe, effective manner is an important capability shared between the U.S., Japan and the Republic of Korea and hones the tactical prowess of each nations’ aviators.”
“This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all of our allies anytime, anywhere,” the U.S. release quoted him as saying.
The drill took place as President Donald Trump met with his national security team on Tuesday to discuss "a range of options" on North Korea in response to its increasing nuclear ambitions.
It comes a day after Defense Secretary James Mattis urged military leaders "to be ready" with military options for Trump to deal with North Korea should diplomacy fail.
Tensions with North Korea have increased in recent weeks after the isolated country launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth and biggest nuclear test in defiance of UN sanctions.
This past weekend, Trump indicated that “only one thing will work” in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program.
“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!” he tweeted, without providing any further details.