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U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander says no change in flights around Korean Peninsula

All Headlines 07:29 December 07, 2019

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces said Friday that recent surveillance flights around the Korean Peninsula were part of regular operations, refusing to confirm any connection to possible North Korean provocations.

In a telephone briefing from Hawaii, Gen. Charles Brown, Jr. said there has been an increasing number of North Korean missile tests and heightened rhetoric ahead of the end-of-year deadline Pyongyang has imposed for Washington to show flexibility in their denuclearization negotiations.

"I also believe as we get here towards the end of the year and the increase in rhetoric, it's something we are actually really paying close attention to, not only for this month but into 2020 as well," Brown told reporters.

"We're pretty much flying the same way that we've been flying for the past year or so, so there's no real change," he said when asked if the surveillance flights implied there could be North Korean provocations.

"Our job is to provide some situational awareness and domain awareness to not only our military leadership, but also to our political leadership so they have an understanding of the dynamics of what's going on within the region, whether it be around the peninsula or any other part of the region," Brown added. "So, our tempo really hasn't changed in the course of the past year."

The U.S. has recently conducted a series of surveillance flights around the Korean Peninsula, involving among other aircraft the RC-135S Cobra Ball.

As one of America's major intelligence-gathering assets, the aircraft collects data related to missile launches, such as the movement of transporter erector launcher vehicles and electronic signals.

The operations come amid little progress in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday hinting at the possibility of using military force against North Korea if necessary.

North Korea immediately reacted to Trump's remarks, with both Pak Jong-chon, chief of the General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army, and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui issuing separate statements warning of "prompt corresponding action" and a renewed war of words.


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