The U.S. Air Force conducted another flight of B-1B long-range bombers near the Korean peninsula on Thursday, escorted by fighters from South Korea and Japan. North Korea responded with predictable outrage, accusing the “gangster-like U.S. imperialists” of practicing for a nuclear surprise attack.
The Air Force said the “bilateral continuous bomber presence mission” was a pre-planned exercise and not a response to “any current event.”
“The gangster-like US imperialists are ceaselessly resorting to their frantic nuclear threat and blackmail to stifle the DPRK with nukes at any cost,” fulminated North Korea’s state-run KCNA news service.
“On Thursday they let a formation of B-1B nuclear strategic bombers stationed at the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam stealthily fly into South Korea again to stage a surprise nuclear strike drill targeting the DPRK,” KCNA wrote.
The B-1B does not actually carry nuclear weapons. It was modified to be incapable of carrying them after the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. Russian officials inspect the planes every 10 years to verify they are unable to carry nuclear missiles.
According to a defense official who spoke to the Associated Press, the B-1B bombers did conduct drills simulating attacks on land targets but did not use live weapons. The AP states the drills were partly meant as a “show of force against North Korea” in advance of President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia.