A US B-52 bomber has landed at a South Korean military base. It wasn’t just any plane: a plane capable of reaching supersonic speeds and carrying nuclear weapons. His trip last week represented the first joint air drills between the United States, Japan and South Korea in response to growing threats from North Korea.
According to the South Korean Air Force, the trilateral exercise took place south of the peninsula where the Seoul and Tokyo Air Defense Identification Zones overlap. “This is the first time the air powers of the United States, Japan and South Korea have conducted an aerial exercise,” read a memo, adding that “the exercise was planned to expand the three countries’ response capabilities against growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.”
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel praised the cooperation last Monday, underlining that it marked the beginning of a “new era” in military cooperation between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.
“From the principles of Camp David to today’s skies, the first trilateral air exercise between the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea is proof of our commitment to strengthening our future and sharing security,” Emanuel explained. The collaboration heralds a new era of defense partnership and deterrence credibility.”
During the exercise, the B-52 flew over the International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, the sector’s largest trade show, in Seoul. There, with the participation of 440 companies from 28 countries, the South Korean military presented new generation fighter jets such as the KF-21 stealth fighter.
Pyongyang sees the exercises and displays of assets and weapons as a dress rehearsal for an invasion, with Kim Jong-un repeatedly warning of “crushing” decisions in response. North Korea opposes Washington’s deployment of long-range military assets and in 2017 threatened to shoot down US strategic bombers even outside its airspace.
The arrival of US B-52s following the docking of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in South Korea prompted an angry response from Pyongyang.
Last August, US President Joe Biden, Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met at Camp David and agreed to a multi-year plan to hold regular joint exercises and share real-time data on North Korea.
However, in early October, the three countries organized a joint naval exercise around the Korean Peninsula for the first time in seven years. According to the South Korean Navy, the exercise simulated the interception of North Korean smuggling vessels.
Sea-to-air with a nuclear-armed U.S. bomber that strengthened cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea and sent a warning to Kim Jong-un: You don’t mess with your allies in Asia.
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