March 17, 2017 10:51
North Korea reacted nervously to a secretive U.S. aerial bombing drill in South Korea using B-1B strategic bombers.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency on Thursday said a fleet of B-1B Lancer bombers from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam carried out a nuclear bombing drill practicing for preemptive strikes against major targets in the North.
The planes flew for about an hour over a firing range in Yeongwol, Gangwon Province, KCNA said. The South Korean and U.S. militaries have not confirmed the deployment of B-1Bs.
But a source here said two U.S. B-1B bombers took part in a bombing drill over the Korean Peninsula and flew back to their base coinciding with the arrival of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on Wednesday to join in the ongoing U.S. and South Korean military exercises.
The drill came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson admitted in Japan that decades of trying to persuade North Korea by diplomatic means to abandon its nuclear program have failed. Tillerson did not go into detail but said, "All options are on the table."
Of the three top U.S. strategic bombers alongside the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B is the fastest at a top speed of Mach 1.25 and has the greatest bomb carrying capacity. It is smaller than the B-52 and has less stealth capabilities than the B-2 but can strike more targets faster than the other two.
It flew missions in Afghanistan and was first deployed in the 1998 bombing of Iraq.
The announcement by KCNA suggests the North now has advanced surveillance equipment that allows it to detect even drills that the U.S., for all its overt show of force during the joint exercises, wants to keep secret.
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