November 25, 2019 09:57
A U.S. B-52H strategic bomber accompanied by a Japanese squadron flew over the East Sea on Friday night just minutes before a military intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea and Japan was to expire at midnight that day.
The flyover was a show of force against China, and Russia, which have become bolder in their incursions into airspace surrounding the Korean Peninsula, as well as a message to North Korea that nothing is changing in the regional alliance. Seoul at the 11th hour decided to extend the pact conditionally.
According to flight tracker Aircraft Spots, the U.S. bomber, which had taken off from Andersen Air Base on Guam, flew through the Korea Strait with the support of a KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft and flew over the East Sea along the boundary line of the air defense identification zones of South Korea and Japan.
The B-52H was escorted by a group of Japanese F-15 fighter jets until it reached the Pacific through the Tsugaru Strait.
Back in 2017, a B-52H strategic bomber, which is capable of carrying nuclear bombs, flew over the Korean Peninsula as a show of force several times in response to the North's nuclear and missile provocations. At the time, it was South Korean fighter jets that escorted it.
B-52 and B-1B strategic bombers stopped taking part in drills over the peninsula when the U.S. and the North engaged in denuclearization talks, though they still took part in drills over Japan. But now U.S.-North Korea talks have collapsed, it was perhaps deemed necessary to send them again.
Meanwhile, suspicious movement has been detected in Sinpo on North Korea's east coast.
Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey tweeted on Nov. 20, "Some interesting goings on dockside at North Korea's Sinpo South Shipyard, where North Korea builds submarines to launch missiles." He posted satellite images of tarpaulin the North spread to cover up submarines docked there from Nov. 1 until 20.
"It seems that the tarp shades moved several times," a military spokesman here said. "It could be a sign that the completion of a ballistic missile sub is imminent."
In South Korea, the Air Force here has tentatively decided to hold a launch ceremony on Dec. 17 for the deployment of F-35A stealth fighter jets it bought from the U.S. this year. The Air Force has taken over a total of 10 F-35As, with the first batch of two arriving in March, but delayed their official launch to avoid agitating North Korea.
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