North reacts angrily to B-52 drill

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North reacts angrily to B-52 drill

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The USS Cheyenne, one of the most capable nuclear attack submarines in the U.S. Navy, enters the port of Busan yesterday morning. The 6,900-ton Los Angeles-class submarine of the U.S. 7th Fleet participated in the Korea-U.S. joint military drill. [NEWSIS]

North Korea angrily threatened the South with a military attack after a powerful U.S. bomber ran test flights over the South as part of the ongoing Seoul-Washington joint military drills.

“We are sensitively keeping an eye on the movement of the strategic bomber B-52,” an unnamed spokesman of the North’s Foreign Ministry told the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the agency reported yesterday.

“If the bomber once again appears on the Korean Peninsula, the hostile groups will not be able to avoid a strong military response.”

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The spokesman also said it is “an intolerable provocation” to dispatch the bomber on the peninsula, in the midst of escalating tensions between two Koreas.

“The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense [Ashton] Carter is involved in South Korean affairs and said that they would send the B-52 to the U.S.-ROK joint military exercise,” the spokesman said, “and [he said] this kind of flight of the bomber will continue, in an apparent move to plot a so-called ‘U.S.-ROK joint response’ and brag about the U.S. willingness to defend the South.”

Although the B-52 was manufactured in the 1950s in response to the Soviet Union’s potential nuclear attack on the U.S. during World War II, the fighter has been upgraded constantly.

The 48-meter (157-feet) long, 221-ton bomber is nuclear-capable, with a maximum flight range of 16,000 kilometers (9,942 miles). Its highest cruise altitude is 16.7 kilometers, so it can avoid attacks from anti-aircraft guns and drop a massive number of explosives from a high altitude.

Technically, the bomber can carry four powerful hydrogen explosives and an AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead.

Kim Min-seok, a Defense Ministry spokesman of South Korea, told reporters on Tuesday that the B-52 jet is “one of the three nuclear umbrellas” provided by U.S. forces, along with the AGM-86 missiles loaded on the B-52 fighter and the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile that is launched from U.S. territory.

Carter previously revealed the B-52’s participation in the drill during a press meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Korea, after meeting with Kim Kwan-jin, South Korean Defense Minister on Monday.

It was unusual for a U.S. official to reveal such classified information publicly.

He said a B-52 would join the joint war games on March 19, sent from the U.S. Andersen base in Guam on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters on Tuesday that it was the second flight for a B-52 over the South Korean territory, following March 8.

“It is not the first time that the B-52 appeared on the Korean Peninsula, but I think North Korea was angry about its official announcement,” a South Korean military official told JoongAng Ilbo. “It is also a response to the U.S. government’s recent announcement to offer a ‘nuclear umbrella’ for the South.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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