US B-1B strategic bomber returns to S.Korea as N.Korea fires missile
Seoul, March 19 (IANS) A US nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bomber returned to South Korea for joint exercises on Sunday, just 16 days after its previous deployment, as Pyongyang fired yet another ballistic missile into the East Sea, according to the Defence Ministry.
The drills took place in skies over the Korean Peninsula as part of the Freedom Shield exercise that has been under way since March 13, and also involved F-35A stealth fighter jets of South Korea and US F-16 fighters, the Ministry said.
A B-1B bomber was previously deployed to the peninsula on March 3, Yonhap news agency reported.
The deployment, seen as a show of force against North Korea, came as the North fired a short-range ballistic missile toward the East Sea earlier on Sunday, three days after Pyongyang test-fired a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The Defence Ministry said the joint air drills demonstrated the robust combined defence posture of the South Korean and US air forces and commitment to extended deterrence, while enhancing the allies' interoperability and wartime capabilities.
"S.Korea-US alliance is maintaining the highest level of combined defence posture against North Korea's consistent threats to regional stability and will achieve 'peace through strength' based on the allies' robust capabilities and posture, while enhancing trust in the US extended deterrence," the Ministry added in a statement.