Tensions are cranking up on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea executed its fourth nuclear test last week. Now the U.S. has made a clear show of deterrence by dispatching a B-52H bomber for drills over South Korea, culminating in a low-level flyby of Osan Air Base while surrounded by a a phalanx of fighters.
Video of the low-level flyby of Osan Air Base, located about 30 miles south of Seoul:
The B-52H, which is currently forward deployed from Minot AFB in North Dakota to Andersen AFB in Guam as part of a standing bomber rotation to the Pacific outpost, flew alongside USAF F-16CMs and RoKAF F-15K SLAM Eagles during the high-profile mission.
The B-52H, although its conventional weapons delivery capabilities are sharper than ever, remains the backbone of America’s airborne nuclear deterrent. The mission was deemed a show of force aimed at North Korea by both parties involved.
Just after the flight concluded, Lt. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy and his South Korean counterpart held a press conference on the Osan Air Base flight-line, and the message could not have been any more clear:
“The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and to maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula, to include extended deterrence provided by our conventional forces and our nuclear umbrella.”
Here is video from the conference:
A similar show of force was executed in 2013 following North Korea’s third nuclear test. That time a B-2 Spirit was the centerpiece of the formation. Obviously the psychological warfare tactic plays off North Korea’s extreme paranoia when it comes to U.S. military might and forward-deployed capabilities.
North Korea’s state news agencies have recently quoted Kim Jong Un as stating the following in regards to the country’s recent nuclear tests:
“The DPRK’s H-bomb test ... is a self-defensive step for reliably defending the peace on the Korean Peninsula and the regional security from the danger of nuclear war caused by the U.S.-led imperialists.”
The supposed hydrogen bomb test that he continues to claim occurred remains almost certainly a lie. At the very best, the atomic device used was enhanced with tritium to elevate its output, nothing more. Most estimates still figure the yield was relatively tiny, even in comparison to the weapons used at the end of World War II.
Meanwhile, along the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea has restarted its loudspeaker broadcasts into North Korea as a response to the North’s nuclear test. Last time these broadcasts occurred, fire was exchanged between North and South Korea, bringing the Peninsula to the brink of war.
Now, both sides are said to be on amassing weaponry along the border, with some of South Korea’s DMZ units, particularly those where loudspeaker operations are commencing, put on the highest alert possible.
All this action comes as North Korea has announced that it will execute a Workers’ Party Convention in May, the first since 1980. With this in mind, we should expect more provocative actions form the North leading up to this event, not less.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.
Photo credits: AP