U.S. sends B-2 bombers to Guam

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U.S. sends B-2 bombers to Guam

The U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) dispatched three of its most advanced fighter jets to its military base in Guam, a decision seen by experts as a display of military might for China amid ongoing tensions.

The USPACOM said in a report posted Tuesday that it sent three B-2 bombers equipped with the most cutting-edge offensive and stealth technologies to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

The deployment of the three powerful bombers - capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear munitions and flying up to 19,000 kilometers (12,000 miles, slightly farther than the distance from Seoul to New York) without refueling - to Guam came three days after Washington dispatched B-1B Lancers with around 300 personnel to accommodate the aircraft to the Guam base Friday. The number of B-1B lancers dispatched to the Andersen base in Guam was not disclosed.

“Our strategic bomber force routinely operates around the globe with our regional allies and partners,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney in a statement Tuesday, “and this deployment is one such demonstration of the U.S. commitment to supporting global and regional security.”

Reports on the dispatch of the three strategic bombers have led to speculation that the move is intended to send signals to Beijing, with which Washington has seen tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The two also are at odds over Seoul’s decision to deploy the U.S.-operated anti-missile system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad), by the end of next year. Beijing suspects Thaad is a cover for the US. to keep its airspace in check.

China has been under growing pressure by the United States and the international community to accept a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal last month that invalided China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

While the ruling is not legally binding, Washington and China’s neighboring countries in dispute with Beijing over the issue have pressed the world’s second largest economy to abide by the ruling, to no avail.

Given the striking capabilities embodied by the B-2 bombers, Shin Jong-woo, a military expert and a director at the Korea Defense Security Forum, said their dispatch to Guam “can be seen as the United States’ willingness to show off its military strength.”

To send warnings to North Korea, two B-2 bombers conducted a flyover in South Korea in March of 2013 following the North’s third nuclear test the previous month.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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