January 11, 2016 09:55
The U.S. on Sunday deployed a B-52 long-range bomber over the Korean Peninsula as a show of force after the North’s nuclear test last week.
B-52s are sturdy old machines familiar to many from the Vietnam War but now capable of striking targets with modern precision-guided munitions.
Their flight for some reason holds a particular terror for the regime, which has reacted sensitively whenever any of the huge lumbering machines came near the peninsula during annual military exercises. It follows South Korea's resumption of propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarized zone on Friday.
"A B-52 took off from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam at 6 a.m. Sunday and flew over Busan and the East Sea, and then over Osan," a military spokesman here said. "It carried out operations for about two hours."
The bomber apparently simulated a bombing attack on Pyongyang and nuclear facilities in the North four days after the nuclear test, sending a signal that the U.S. will not tolerate North Korea's ongoing nuclear arms development.
Why the B-52s are such a bugbear for the North is not clear, except perhaps for their symbolic value and because their sheer size allows them to carry huge so-called bunker-buster bombs that can penetrate shelters up to 60 m below the surface.
In March 2013, immediately after the North's third nuclear test, the U.S. also deployed B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers on sorties here, prompting then leader Kim Jong-il to call a midnight meeting of top brass.
South Korea and the U.S. are expected to continue their campaign with the deployment of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, attack submarines, and F-22 stealth fighter, which Pyongyang has also singled out as particular threats.
Meanwhile, President Park Geun-hye is still pondering a public statement she hopes to make about the crisis this week.
The North claims the nuclear weapon it detonated last week was a hydrogen bomb, but this has been widely dismissed. Nonetheless any nuclear test violates a slew of UN Security Council resolutions.
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