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US bombers drill near Korea DMZ in show of force

Exercise aims to ‘sternly respond to series of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches,’ the South’s military says

In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber, left, drops a bomb over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea Saturday, July 8, 2017.  (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber, left, drops a bomb over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea Saturday, July 8, 2017. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea — US bombers carried out a rare live fire drill in South Korea Saturday, flying close to the DMZ in a show of force after Pyongyang’s latest missile test, the South’s defense ministry said.

After the drill, the B-1B Lancers, deployed from the Anderson Air Base in Guam, flew close to the tense and heavily militarized land border with the North before turning back, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The exercise aimed to “sternly respond to the series of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches,” the South’s military said in a statement.

Four US and South Korean jet fighters joined the live fire drill, which was conducted at a range in Yeongwol County, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the inter-Korean border, the military said.

The long-range heavy aircraft each dropped a 2,000-pound (907.1 kilos) laser-guided bunker-busting smart bomb.

In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers, bottom left and third from top, fly with South Korean and US fighter jets over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea Saturday, July 8, 2017. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers, bottom left and third from top, fly with South Korean and US fighter jets over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea Saturday, July 8, 2017. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

The drill simulated the two US bombers destroying enemy ballistic missile batteries and South Korean jets mounting precision strikes against underground enemy command posts, it said.

“Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverize enemy command posts,” the statement said.

North Korea on Tuesday test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, an apparent game-changer in its confrontation with Washington over its nuclear and missile programmes.

In response, US and South Korean soldiers fired ballistic missiles simultaneously in a drill Wednesday, simulating an attack on the North’s leadership “as a strong message of warning,” the South’s military said at the time.

The US Missile Defense Agency said Friday it would soon test an anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska, days after the North demonstrated its arsenal was capable of striking parts of Alaska with the ICBM test.

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