SEOUL, South Korea – The American military made a rare announcement that two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers ran a practice bombing sortie over South Korea on Thursday, underscoring Washington’s commitment to defend its ally amid rising tensions with North Korea.
The two B-2 Spirit bombers made a nonstop round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, demonstrating the United States’ ability to “provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region” and to “conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” the American command in the South Korean capital, Seoul, said in a statement.
It was the first time the American military publicly confirmed a B-2 mission over the Korean Peninsula. As the bombers dropped inert munitions that they carried 6,500 miles over the Pacific to an island bombing range off South Korea’s west coast, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conferred with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, on the phone, reaffirming the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to defend the South.
After suffering from the American carpet-bombing during the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea remains particularly sensitive about American bombers. It keeps most of its key military installations underground and its war cries typically reach a frenetic pitch when American bombers fly over South Korea during military exercises. The resulting fear and anti-American sentiment is used by the regime to make its people rally behind the North’s “military-first” leadership.