World Bulletin / News Desk
A nuclear-capable American B-1B bomber flew closer to North Korea than ever before this week, according to the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) on Thursday.
An online USPACOM post described Wednesday’s flight close to the inter-Korean border as “just the first of many steps that forces of the United States and [South Korea] are taking to bolster the ironclad alliance between our nations.”
U.S. Forces Korea already announced that one of its B-1B bombers stationed in Guam would be based for the time being in the South -- where nearly 30,000 American troops are also deployed.
Billed as the “operational backbone of the U.S. long-range bomber mission”, the supersonic aircraft had not actually landed on the peninsula for two decades -- although a pair of B-1Bs did carry out a flyby in response to North Korea’s fifth ever nuclear test nearly two weeks ago.
Local news agency Yonhap earlier reported that Wednesday’s follow-up flight had proceeded “just south” of the Military Demarcation Line that cuts through the infamous Demilitarized Zone, which was established when a ceasefire brought the 1950-53 Korean War to an effective close.
But tensions remain high as Pyongyang remains determined to develop nuclear weapons despite the threat of further United Nations Security Council sanctions, while continuing to verbally threaten to strike its southern neighbor as well as the U.S.
As South Korean President Park Geun-hye admitted Thursday that she no longer had hope for dialogue with North Korea, a local newspaper claimed that Seoul is pondering a bold attempt at toppling Pyongyang’s authoritarian regime.
The Korea Times quoted Defense Minister Han Min-koo as telling lawmakers a day earlier that the South is “considering launching a special forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un".
Such a plan would reportedly only come into action if the North were to appear set to attack South Korea.