U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15 jets, flying in international waters, carried out a show of force Saturday off the coast of North Korea aimed at countering what the Pentagon called Pyongyang’s “reckless behavior.”
The Pentagon said the operation was taking place at the farthest point north of the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, that any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft has flown this century.
Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the operation was aimed at “underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior.”
And late Saturday, President Trump took another personal dig at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump tweeted, “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
“This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” White said. “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.”
The display of military might comes as tensions between Pyongyang and Washington are mounting, most recently with North Korea’s foreign minister blasting Trump in a speech Saturday at the United Nations.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho called Trump “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who is holding “the nuclear button.”
He said Trump’s personal insults against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, make “our rocket’s visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”
In a speech this week before the U.N., Trump warned North Korea that it could face potential obliteration and mocked the North’s young leader as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.”
North Korea has said it intends to build a missile capable of striking all parts of the United States with a nuclear bomb and has underscored its rhetoric with periodic missile and nuclear tests.
Foreign minister Yong-ho even warned on Friday that Pyongyang may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
The B-1B Lancers, deployed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, took off from Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, the Pentagon said. The bombers were joined by U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan.
The Department of Defense did not specify the exact number of aircraft used in the operation.
The Pentagon emphasized that no Japanese or South Korean fighters were involved in the operation.