The U.S. reportedly once again flew a surveillance aircraft over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday after North Korea hinted at developing new, possibly nuclear, weapons.
An RC-135W Rivet Joint of the U.S. Air Force was seen flying over South Korea at 31,000 feet, the military air-movement tracker Aircraft Spots revealed on Twitter.
The tracker added that the plane has carried out operations over the past few days, with support of other surveillance planes including EP-3E and RC-135S. It did not provide further details of the operations.
JAN 01: USAF RC-135W 62-4130 TORA23 on task over South Korea at 31,000 feet
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) January 1, 2020
Last week, Aircraft Spots reported that four different types of American reconnaissance aircraft were seen simultaneously conducting missions over and around the Korean Peninsula on and around Christmas day.
The surveillance flights come after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un announced in his New Year address that his communist regime would expand testing of unspecified military assets. North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017, after which the United Nations Security Council imposed unprecedentedly strict sanctions on Pyongyang’s economy. China and Russia, allies to North Korea, signed off on the sanctions despite having veto power. Kim later claimed that the nation did not need more nuclear tests because the world had accepted it as a nuclear power.
North Korea previously declared a halt on missile testing following peace negotiations between Kim and President Donald Trump, although the latter’s refusal to lift sanctions against the regime eventually led to a breakdown in talks.
According to a summary of his remarks by the state-run newspaper Rodung Sinmun, Kim declared that “great successes have ceaselessly been made in bolstering up the strength of the state and in increasing defense capabilities,” with the successful development of a “promising strategic weapon system” that would “give [North Korea’s] enemies the blow of big uneasiness and horror.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday from his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump maintained that he was still optimistic about future diplomacy with North Korea, describing Kim as a “man of his word.”
“Look, he likes me, I like him, we get along,” Trump said. “But he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization … I think he’s a man of his word so we’re going to find out, but I think he’s a man of his word.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with CBS News that any intention to resume hostilities would be “deeply disappointing.”
“If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that is deeply disappointing,” Pompeo said. “He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for [us] agreeing not to conduct large-scale military exercises. We’ve lived up to our commitments. We continue to hold out hope that he will live up to his as well.”