Handout / Reuters
Sunday’s joint mission also follows the U.S.’s Saturday test of its
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska, which successfully detected, tracked and intercepted a ballistic missile launched over the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Air Force.
“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Diplomacy remains the lead. However, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario.”
“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to express his frustration with China’s inability to contain North Korea.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also called on China and Russia to aid in the “peaceful denuclearization” of the North in a
statement released on Friday, following the country’s ICBM launch.
“As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” the statement read.
The United States often sends powerful warplanes in times of heightened tensions with North Korea. B-1 bombers have been sent to South Korea for flyovers several times this year in response to the North’s missile tests, and also
following the death of a U.S. college student last month after he was released by North Korea in a coma.
AFP – Getty Images
The Hwasong-14 ICBM, which the North first tested on July 4, is the highlight of several new weapons systems Pyongyang launched this year. They include an intermediate range missile that North Korea says is capable of hitting Alaska and Hawaii, and a solid-fuel mid-range missile, which analysts say can be fired faster and more secretly than liquid-fuel missiles.
South Korea will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which happens in little over six months, but an official from the South Korea president’s office said that there is “no possibility” that the threat of the North will interfere.
“The Republic of Korea is responding to the North Korean nuclear and missile threats through close coordination and cooperation with the international community,” the official told NBC News Sunday, “Our government will make every effort so that the PyeongChang Games will be a safe and successful gathering bringing the whole world together through harmony and peaceful exchange.”