US Deploys B-52H Strategic Bomber in Joint Air Drill With South Korea

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The South Korea-United States joint military drill held on Wednesday paraded at least one B-52H strategic bomber, sending a clear warning to North Korea. The defense ministry of South Korea said in a statement that the combined air drill was aimed at sharpening the deterrence capability of Seoul against increasing threats from North Korea.

Hwasan-31 Tactical Nuclear Warhead

The drill took place a month after the American bomber was deployed to the Korean Peninsula even as tensions between the rivals increased. Pyongyang recently unveiled the Hwasan-31 tactical nuclear warhead, ratcheting up tensions in the peninsula. The deployment of Hwasan-31 prompted the South Korean Air Force to mobilize its F-35A radar-evading fighters, while the US deployed F-35B and F-16 fighters.

H-6 Bomber
The H-6K is the latest model of the bomber, which is based on the 1950s vintage Soviet Tu-16 YouTube Grab

Days earlier, North Korea unveiled new, smaller nuclear warheads and vowed to produce more weapons-grade nuclear material to expand its arsenal. According to Pyongyang's official news agency KCNA, Kim Jong Un ordered the production of weapons-grade materials in a "far-sighted way" to boost its nuclear arsenal "exponentially" and produce powerful weapons.

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released photos of the warheads, dubbed Hwasan-31s. Leader Kim Jong Un visited the Nuclear Weapons Institute and inspected new tactical nuclear weapons and technology for mounting warheads on ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear counterattack operation plans, KCNA said.

H6-J Bomber
H6-J Bomber YouTube Grab

The latest drill comes after hundreds of US and South Korean warplanes participated in a combined military drill in October last year. "South Korea and US Air Forces will work together with the joint services to perform major air missions such as close air support, defensive counter air, and emergency air operations 24 hours a day during the training period ... Support forces on the ground will also train their base defence procedures and survivability in case of attack," the US Air Force said in a statement following the biggest ever combined military drill by Washington and Seoul.


The closer military cooperation between Seoul and Washington and more frequent joint drills come at a time when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has said Pyongyang's transformation into a nuclear power is irreversible. Analysts and geopolitical experts believe North Korea is close to achieving tactical nuclear weapons and that its plan is to nuclearise many of its new short-range missiles.

Nuclear armed North Korea has been ratcheting up tension in the region for long, but this ICBM launch was the most daring act of provocation by Kim Jong-un in recent times. It was the first time in four years that Pyongyang is firing a missile over the territory of Japan