US flies B-52 nuke bomber over South Korea as reply to North Korean hydrogen bomb test

January 11, 2016 5:59 am

Show of strength comes as reply to North Korean bomb test

 A Air Force B-52 bomber flies over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, . Photo / AP

The deployed a B-52 bomber on a low-level flight over
its ally South Korea yesterday, in a show of force after ’s
nuclear test last week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
maintained last week’s test was of a hydrogen bomb and a defensive step
against a United States threat of nuclear war.
North Korea’s
fourth nuclear test angered both the United States and China, although
the US Government and weapons experts doubt the device was a hydrogen
bomb.
The B-52, based in Guam and capable of carrying nuclear
weapons, was joined by two fighter planes, a US F-16 and a South Korean
F-15, in a low flight over Osan Air Base near Seoul, before returning to
Guam, the US military said. The flight was “in response to recent
provocative action by North Korea”.
Experts believe the nuclear
test, which produced a seismic tremor of 5.1 on the Richter scale, too
smallnorth  to be a proper hydrogen bomb, was designed to set the stage for a
rare general meeting later this year of North Korea’s ruling Workers’
Party, the first since 1980.

North Korea will read the fly-over of a bomber capable of
delivering nuclear weapons as a threat. Any hint of America’s nuclear
power enrages Pyongyang, which links its own pursuit of atomic weapons
to what it sees as past nuclear-backed moves by the United States to
topple its Government.
“This was a demonstration of the ironclad
US commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defence
of the American homeland,” said Admiral Harry Harris, commander US
Pacific Command. “North Korea’s nuclear test is a blatant violation of
its international obligations.”
After North Korea’s last test, in
2013, the United States sent a pair of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth
bombers over South Korea. At the time, North Korea responded by
threatening a nuclear attack on the United States.
The two Koreas
remain in a technical state of war after their 1950-53 conflict ended
in a truce, not a peace treaty, and the United States has about 28,500
troops based in South Korea.
The B-52 flight follows a victory
tour by Kim to celebrate his country’s bomb test. Kim’s first public
comments about the test came in a visit to the country’s military
headquarters, where he called the explosion “a self-defensive step”
meant to protect the region “from the danger of nuclear war caused by
the US-led imperialists”.
“It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state and a fair action that nobody can criticise,” Kim said.
The
tone of Kim’s comments provided insight into North Korea’s long-running
argument that it is the presence of tens of thousands of US troops in
South Korea and Japan, and a “hostile” US policy that seeks to topple
the government in Pyongyang, that make North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear
weapons necessary.
During his tour, Kim posed for photos with
leading military officials in front of statues of the two members of his
family who led the country previously – Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.
The United States has said it has no nuclear weapons in South Korea.

South Korean soldiers adjust equipment used  to beam propaganda broadcasts into North Korea near the border between the two countries. Photo / AP
South Korean soldiers adjust equipment used
to beam propaganda broadcasts into North Korea near the border between
the two countries. Photo / AP
South Korean troops, near about 10 sites where loudspeakers
started blaring propaganda after the test, were on the highest alert,
but had not detected any unusual movement from North Korea along the
border, said an official from Seoul’s Defence Ministry, who refused to
be named.
South Korea’s Yonhap agency said Seoul had deployed missiles, artillery and other weapons systems near the border.
The
ministry would not confirm the report, nor another by Yonhap that said
North Korea had started its own broadcasts, likely to prevent its
soldiers from hearing the South Korean messages.
Officials say broadcasts from the South’s loudspeakers can travel about 10km during the day and 24km at night.
That
reaches many of the huge force of North Korean soldiers stationed near
the border, as well as residents in border towns such as Kaesong, where
the Koreas jointly operate an industrial park that has been a valuable
cash source for the impoverished north.

The B-52

7th Air Force commander of the U.S. Forces to Korea, speaks in front of a US F-16 fighter jet as South Korean Air Forces Commander listens. Photo / AP
7th Air Force commander of the U.S. Forces
to Korea, speaks in front of a US F-16 fighter jet as South Korean Air
Forces Commander listens. Photo / AP
First deployed: 1955
Length: 47.8m
Wingspan: 55.5m
Speed: 1,045.85 km/h
Range: 14,159km without refuelling
Armaments: 31,500kg of ordnance, which can include bombs, mines and missiles
Crew: Five
Inventory: 58 active, 18 reserve
Cost: US$84 million

 

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