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US bombers fly over Korean peninsula, Trump weighs options against Pyongyang

The drills came a day after a South Korean lawmaker reported the theft of joint US-South Korean operational wartime plans by North Korean hackers in 2016.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2017 18:36 IST
Yashwant Raj
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer  takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to fly a bilateral mission with Japanese and South Korea Air Force jets in the vicinity of the Sea of Japan on October 10, 2017.
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to fly a bilateral mission with Japanese and South Korea Air Force jets in the vicinity of the Sea of Japan on October 10, 2017.(REUTERS)

The US flew two bombers over the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump weighed options on North Korea, both pre-emptive and retaliatory, presented to him by his top military leaders.

The two B-1B Lancer bombers, which took off from a US base on Guam, were joined by two F-15K fighters from the South Korean Air Force. Two jets from Japan also joined in later.

After entering South Korean airspace, the bombers carried out air-to-ground missile drills in waters off the east coast of South Korea, then flew over the South to waters between it and China to repeat the drill, said a Reuters report citing a press statement from South Korean military. The US military this was the first such night-time exercise undertaken by the three militaries.

The White House said Trump met members of his national security team to receive a briefing from defence secretary James Mattis and joint chiefs of staff chairman Gen Joseph Dunford.

“The briefing and discussion focused on a range of options to respond to any form of North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons,” it said.

The exercises came amidst growing tensions between the US and its allies, and North Korea. Last week, Trump had ominously remarked about the “calm before the storm” and had, on a separate occasion, said diplomacy was wasted on North Korea as it “only understand(s) one thing”.

The drills also came a day after a South Korean lawmaker reported the theft of joint US-South Korean operational wartime plans by North Korean hackers in 2016 — about 235 gigabytes of military documents from South Korea’s Defence Integrated Data Center.

The US has said “all options” are on the table to deal with mounting threats from North Korea, with Trump seen to be leaning more towards a military solution in public remarks. However, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Mattis both favour diplomacy.