News / Asia

US Stealth Bombers Fly Over Korean Peninsula

US B-2 stealth bomber flies south of Seoul, South Korea, March 28, 2013
US B-2 stealth bomber flies south of Seoul, South Korea, March 28, 2013
U.S. B-2 bombers have conducted a firing drill on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. military is making no secret that the non-stop flights of a pair of B-2 bombers Thursday from the United States to South Korea should be interpreted as a signal to North Korea.

A military news release announcing the mission says it "demonstrates the United States' ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will."

The strategic stealth bombers flew from Whiteman Air Force Base in the U.S. state of Missouri to drop inert munitions on an island off the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula before heading back to their home base - a 20,000 kilometer non-stop trip.

Shin In-kyun, who heads the Korea Defense Network - an alliance of military experts based in Seoul - says it is unprecedented for the U.S. Air Force to be so transparent about such B-2 flights.

Shin says this means that the United States is taking seriously the provocative language from Pyongyang. And the B-2 is “a weapon North Korea fears the most.”

Twice earlier this month, during joint U.S.-South Korean exercises, the U.S. Air Force also dispatched B-52 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to fly training missions over South Korea.

Both the B-2's and the B-52's are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The announcement of the B-2 flights came just hours after the defense chiefs of the United States and South Korea spoke on the telephone.

A Pentagon news release says U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin discussed the unwavering commitment of the United States to its alliance with South Korea, "especially during this time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula."

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman George Little was asked about the U.S.Defense Department's reaction to North Korea's cutting Wednesday of the only remaining military hotline with the South.

"This is yet another provocative and unconstructive step that the North Korean regime has taken," he said. "It's very important for the regime to focus on what we think is the right course of action and that is the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and their provocations and bellicose rhetoric is not helping the situation."

North Korea earlier disconnected the Red Cross hotline at the Panmunjom truce village and stopped accepting phone calls on the line linking it to the U.S.-led United Nations Command.

South Korea's government says the aviation hotline linking the Incheon and Pyongyang air traffic controllers remains operational.

South Korea has requested the North reconnect the military hotline which Seoul says helps ensure the safety of those entering the Kaesong joint industrial park from the South.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye held a policy meeting on North Korea Wednesday at the presidential palace.  Ms. Park said her country will not be idle while Pyongyang makes threats to disrupt the peace. 

More than 1,000 South Koreans on Thursday passed through the Paju border control post, to and from the complex just north of the demilitarized zone.

Officials say they are now using one of the 1,300 civilian telephone lines connecting South Korea to the Kaesong industrial complex to relay the names of those seeking entry, mostly employers and managers.

North Korea announced Wednesday it was immediately cutting off the hotline. The announcement blamed the United States and South Korea for rising hostility on the peninsula.

During this period of rising tension, which has included threats to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea, the impoverished and isolated North has not disrupted operations of the industrial park.

The complex is responsible for $2 billion annually in inter-Korean trade and is one of the few sources of legitimate hard currency for North Korea.

Wages totaling $80 million a year are paid to the North Korean government, not directly to the 50,000 workers who assemble household goods.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: Jay from: CA
April 12, 2013 7:15 PM
Pure provocation. Simple. Typical US bullying tactics.

by: Franz Kratschmer from: Darwin, Australia.
April 02, 2013 10:03 PM
One question addressed to:

1) The United Nations Secretary-General: Would it be possible for you to arrange one meeting in Panmunjon?
2) The US President: Are there any obstacles participating in such meeting?
3) The NK Leader: As you always wished to negotiate directly with the US - would you attend?
4) The new Chinese Leadership: Would you discuss this with the NK leader?

I just can not figure out why this has not happened before.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 28, 2013 10:14 PM
A tremendous waste of fuel, lots of wear and tear on the B-2, useless gesture. The NKorean leadership does not react, nor does it behave normally, more granstanding does not add anything positive to the equations resolution. As a matter of fact, the more response, the more they willl react. Ignoring them, is the only thing that hurts their sense of self.

The more they are engaged, through grandstanding, the more they are being boxed into reacting; if anything, the flight of the B-2 is counterproductive, unless it is actually loaded with real munitions, and fully engages in its mission, which no one wants. The more the ratcheting, the greater the reaction will be, it is akin to tightening a spring, the more it is shortened, the further it will extend/react. Just standby, be ready, and do not get surprised when the spring fully recoils! And no concrete rounds on the B-2s or B-52s.....

by: Dave from: U.S.
March 28, 2013 6:08 PM
If anyone starts a war, the only winner will be the undertaker, and the biggest losers will be the people of North and South Korea, followed by the rest of civilization.

by: musawmelake
March 28, 2013 1:43 PM
THis show of strength, if it really a strength, may alo mean the US and their allies are very scared!, for if a war is to break out then it's not going to be a war between the US and allies on one side and the North-Koreans on the other, but the war would bring in the Chinese, who were able to teach a lesson to the so called UN-force in the 50s. Chinese were unarmed with nuclear bombs, but now though the damage may be greater in terms of matterials to the Chinese, the US would not be able to atand uopn again. That's why all these exercises and shows.

If they were aiming at dicouraging the North-Korean enemy by this kinds of shows, they might have done the same with Sadam Husain, Kadaffi and Assad of Syria, instead of going in all at once!. In these latter cases they knew the enemy is unarmed compared to their own arsenals, after a lengthy embargos. But the Koreans are a different beasts to tame. Koreans will tame the Free-Masons first!
In Response

by: Horizontal Asymptote from: USA
March 28, 2013 3:56 PM
These exercises (most commonly known as Foal Eagle) have been conducted every year since 1997. Though I don't believe it's correct to say that the exercises have nothing to do with the recent threats from North Korea, these exercises would have taken place in some form regardless of how much yelling was going on. So I think you're off the mark by trying to compare Foal Eagle to conflicts in Iraq, Libya, or Syria...

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 28, 2013 1:04 PM
This is Hollywood acting. Enough of the threats. North Korea threatens. USA threatens. No, that's not what we want to see. We want to see the real thing happen. Who fires first, North Korea, USA or South Korea. Let the game start - War game I mean. Enough of threatening. North Korea must stop bothering people with its ability to shoot down Satan from its palace in hell. We want to see real action, and now is the best time to stop Pyongyang from further noise making about war, BECAUSE IT IS NOT A CHILD'S PLAY.

by: Michael from: USA
March 28, 2013 8:46 AM
Any political organization that is backed up by strong military force must know for sure if their cause is correct. So to think about whether the cause is correct is to do something other than military acts, that is, place a "hold" on all violence and think

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