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Two U.S. B-1B supersonic heavy bombers are taking part in South Korea’s extensive air drills jointly conducted by Seoul and Washington on Saturday, extended after a record series of missile fire by North Korea, as Pyongyang again launched four short-range missiles to the Yellow Sea, according to the South Korean military.
Tension remains between the two Koreas. North Korea has launched four short-range missiles towards the Yellow Sea, the South Korean military said on Saturday (November 5th), after a record series of missile fire by Pyongyang this week. While the largest air exercises ever jointly organized by South Korea and the United States have been taking place since Monday.
South Korea’s military detected the launch “from Donglim, North Pyongan province, towards the western sea, between 11:32 and 11:39 a.m. (between 2:32 and 2:39 a.m. GMT) today” on Saturday, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, using another name for the Yellow Sea.
Their “flight distance was detected at some 130 km, at an altitude of approximately 20 km and a speed of Mach 5,” the statement added. Mac 5 is five times the speed of sound.
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Shortly before, the South Korean army announced the participation on Saturday afternoon of two American B-1B supersonic heavy bombers in the extensive air exercises underway in South Korea jointly conducted by Seoul and Washington.
“The South Korean and US air forces conducted joint exercises on November 5 (Saturday) on the Korean Peninsula with two US Air Force B-1Bs, four South Korean F-35As and four American F-16s,” according to a statement from the South Korean general staff at the end of the maneuvers on Saturday afternoon.
The “backbone of America’s long-range bomber force”
The B-1B is a supersonic bomber that the United States Air Force describes as the “backbone of America’s long-range bomber force.”
Its deployment in the context of maneuvers with South Korea will be considered a “significant threat” by North Korea, Ahn Chan-il, an expert on North Korean issues, told AFP.
The “Vigilant Storm” aerial exercises, which started on October 31, are the largest ever jointly organized by South Korea and the United States.
Initially scheduled until Friday, they have been extended until Saturday after the multiplication, by North Korea, of missile launches in recent days, and in particular the apparently failed launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the direction of from the Sea of Japan.
North Korea has always viewed U.S.-South Korean military maneuvers as dress rehearsals for an invasion of its territory or an overthrow of its rulers.
The “Vigilant Storm” exercise constitutes “an aggressive and provocative military maneuver targeting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, denounced the North Korean regime on Wednesday, which threatened Seoul and Washington to “pay the most horrible price in history. “.
Although it was originally designed to carry nuclear weapons, the B-1B has only been used by the United States for exclusively conventional combat missions since the mid-1990s, indicates its manufacturer Boeing on its site. Internet. It was notably used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
It can carry up to 34 tons of missiles or laser-guided bombs (BGL), according to the US Airforce. Its air supply allows it to strike anywhere in the world.
On Friday evening, the South Korean army announced that it had deployed some 80 F-35A stealth aircraft after detecting 180 fighter jets flying in North Korean airspace, a new episode in the spectacular rise in tension on the Korean peninsula in recent times. last weeks.
The United States on Friday denounced the repeated firing of missiles by North Korea which “ridiculously ridicules” the UN Security Council, with the complicity according to them of Russia and China, allies of Pyongyang.
Disagreement at the UN
After attacking Russia and China, Washington, Paris, London, other non-permanent member states of the Security Council advocated in a joint statement “unity” in the face of the “threat that South Korea North stands for international peace”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged, through his spokesperson, that “North Korea immediately refrain from any act of provocation and fully comply with its obligations under the Council’s resolutions. of security”.
He said he was “deeply concerned by the tensions on the Korean peninsula and the thrust of a rhetoric of confrontation”, insisted his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Pyongyang fired about 30 missiles on Wednesday and Thursday, including one that ended its course near southern territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol spoke of a “de facto territorial invasion”.
Analysts attribute Pyongyang’s particularly angry reaction to the use of advanced F-35A and F-35B stealth aircraft during “Vigilant Storm”, seen as an ideal tool for carrying out lightning “decapitation strikes” against North Korean leaders.
North Korea had already, in September, revised its nuclear doctrine to allow itself to carry out preventive strikes in the event of an existential threat against the Kim Jong Un regime.
If North Korea’s nuclear “command and control system” is “endangered by an attack by hostile forces, a nuclear strike will be launched automatically and immediately,” the new doctrine says.
Seoul and Washington have been warning for months that North Korea is about to carry out a nuclear test, which would be its seventh.