Two days after North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test flew directly over Northern Japan, the United States and South Korea reciprocated with another show of force intended to demonstrate to Kim’s regime the allies’ ability to retaliate in the event of a real missile strike, this time, using advanced fighter jets.
Four US F-35B fighter jets joined two US B-1B bombers and four South Korean F-15 fighter jets in a joint flyover of the Korean peninsula. The F-35Bs, touted as the most advanced fighters on the planet by the U.S. military, coupled with B-1B Lancer bombers, each capable of carrying a payload of 75,000 pounds of conventional ordnance, send a dramatic message in themselves, but for international purposes, the comparably less capable South Korean F-15s play just as vital a role.
North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of Pacific Air Forces, adding that the flyover was a “direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch.”
“This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”
South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has repeatedly made public gestures toward the Kim regime, in an attempt at encouraging peace between the two Koreas. In keeping with those efforts, he has stated on multiple occasions that he will make every effort to prevent war from starting on the Korean peninsula, serving as a public reassurance to those who have claimed the United States has assumed too aggressive a posture in the region.
South Korea’s continued participation in what began as a run of the mill joint military training exercise between the United States and South Korea, as well as in these show of force operations, sends a clear message to North Korean officials: President Moon may be harping on peace, but his nation is, none the less, prepared to go to war. This distinction is an important piece of negotiating leverage for the United States, if talks with North Korea ever commence, as South Korea stands to lose the most of any U.S.-allied nation in the event of open war on their peninsula. Moon’s rhetoric may be soft, but his posture mirrors America’s unwillingness to back down.
“The U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces do not hide their bellicose nature, claiming that the exercises are to ’counter’ the DPRK’s ballistic rocket launches and nuclear weapons development,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.
“But the wild military acts of the enemies are nothing but the rash act of those taken aback by the intermediate-to-long range strategic ballistic rocket launching drill conducted by the army of the DPRK as the first military operation in the Pacific.”
The B-1Bs that participated in the flyover were once again launched from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam – an American territory in the Pacific that Kim Jong un announced is the “next target” for his new Pacific campaign. Weeks ago, North Korea announced plans to launch four ballistic missiles toward the island, which prompted aggressive responses from President Donald Trump, as well as a number of high-ranking officials within his administration.
The F-35Bs have been in Japan since January, where they were deployed under an Obama-era agreement intended to demonstrate America’s commitment to the nation’s defense. According to Japanese officials, the F-35 deployment, along with the Marines operating them, were not directly tied to the North Korean threat, but have served to increase Japan’s deterrent capability amid an increasingly hostile diplomatic climate.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force