Four U.S. F-35B stealth jets and two B-1B strategic bombers flew near the tense inter-Korean border on Monday during training with four South Korean fighters, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a South Korean government source.
“They dropped inert bombs onto the Pilseung shooting range in Taebaek, Gangwon Province, during the exercise held from noon until 2:30 p.m. and returned to their bases,” the source was quoted as saying.
It was the first time for F-35B stealth jets to come so close to North Korea, the report added.
The show of force is seen as meant to send a strong warning to North Korea following its recent provocative actions that further escalated tensions in the region.
Later Monday, the South Korean Defense Ministry released a statement briefly confirming there had been a joint exercise involving military aircraft.
“The exercise was held as part of regular exercises aimed at bolstering capability of extended deterrence,” the statement said.
Through the exercise, the two sides demonstrated their deterrent power against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and also boosted the ability of rapid deployment by improving inter-operability and capability of combined operations, the statement said.
“In the days to come, the South Korean and U.S. navies will display the deterrent power of combined forces through joint exercises involving U.S. strategic bombers,” it said.
North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, following its sixth and most powerful to date nuclear test on Sept. 3.
The F-35Bs, based in Japan, and the U.S. Air Force’s B-1Bs stationed in Guam are among high-profile U.S. defense assets deployed to South Korea relatively often in a show of force against North Korea for its provocations, Yonhap said.