The U.S. Air Force conducted joint live fire drills with the South Korean military on Saturday. The U.S. B-1B Lancers were joined by South Korean F-15 fighter jets and U.S. F-16 fighter jets. The live fire exercise took place in the province of Gangwon-do of South Korea, according to Reuters. Gangwon-do is bordered to the north by the North Korean province of Kangwon.
The live fire drills come exactly a week after North Korea successfully test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the U.S. state of Alaska. U.S. officials speculate that the range of the North Korean ICBM is 3,400 miles (5,500 Kilometers).
The B-1B Lancers flew from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to participate in the live fire drills. The supersonic strategic bombers flew along the Demilitarized Zones (DMZ) during the practice mission before heading home.
U.S. President Donald Trump held trilateral meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussing the Korean missile crisis at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Bloomberg reported.
In the lead up to the G2o summit, Trump addressed the ICBM launch in a press conference during a stop in Warsaw, Poland stating, “It’s a shame they’re behaving this way, and they’re behaving in a very dangerous manner, and something will have to be done about it.”
The joint live fire exercise took place four days removed from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin urging a de-escalation of the tensions in the southeast Asia region, according to HuffPost.
The joint statement from the global powers also conveyed urgent weariness of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system being strategically on the doorsteps of their respective countries. The joint statement explicitly stated, “Russia and China oppose the deployment of such systems and call on the relevant countries to immediately halt and cancel the process of deployment.”
Reuters reported that the U.S. is scheduled to conduct the first test of the THAAD missile defense system at Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska in the upcoming week.
In the wake of the live fire exercise U.S. General Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Force commander, delivered a stern message to North Korea as he stated, “let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
Dongguk University, professor of North Korean studies, Koh Yu-Hwan observed, “this time, the bombers carried out a firing drill, which is unusual.”
South Korean President, Moon Jae-in remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the Korean missile crisis.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]