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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. hold joint air drills involving U.S. B-52H bomber

Defense 16:34 March 06, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details from Seoul's defense ministry)

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States staged combined air drills Monday, involving at least one U.S. nuclear-capable B-52H strategic bomber, Seoul's defense ministry said, in the latest show of America's military might against North Korea's evolving military threats.

The exercise took place over the Yellow Sea, mobilizing the bomber as well as the South's F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets. The allies held similar drills, involving a U.S. B-1B bomber, on Friday.

The deployment of high-profile U.S. military assets came amid concerns that Pyongyang could launch provocations in response to the allies' Freedom Shield (FS) exercise set to take place from March 13-23.

"The U.S.' deployment of the B-52H strategic bomber to the Korean Peninsula demonstrates the alliance's decisive and overwhelming capability and posture to deter, and respond against advancing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea," the ministry said in a release.

The U.S. previously deployed a B-52H bomber here in December last year.

Aside from their preparations for the FS and other field drills, the allies have sought to sharpen their vigilance against North Korean provocations.

Last month, Pyongyang warned Seoul and Washington would face "unprecedentedly" strong counteractions should they press ahead with this year's plans for combined drills, which it has decried as preparations for a war of aggression.

Meanwhile, the allies' Air Forces also kicked off this year's first Buddy Wing exercise at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of Seoul, on Monday, according to Seoul officials.

The regular squadron-level drills, designed to enhance wartime operation capabilities and teamwork, involves some 10 aircraft, including the South's F-15K fighter jet and the U.S.' A-10 attack aircraft, and will run until Friday.

The allies plan to hold the Buddy Wing exercise nine times this year, it added.

This file photo, provided by the U.S. Central Command on Nov. 11, 2022, shows a U.S. B-52H strategic bomber. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo, provided by the U.S. Central Command on Nov. 11, 2022, shows a U.S. B-52H strategic bomber. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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