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US B-1B bomber deployed for joint military drills with South Korea

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FILE PHOTO: US Air Force B-1B bombers, F-16 fighter jets and South Korean Air Force F-35A take part in a joint air drill, South Korea, March 19, 2023. South Korean Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. B-1B bomber joined military drills by the United States and South Korea on Wednesday, the 10th such flight by an American bomber this year as the allies have stepped up responses to threats from North Korea.

The bomber flew alongside South Korean FA-50 jets and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters as part of ongoing Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, South Korea’s defence ministry said.

North Korea routinely denounces the annual military drills as a rehearsal for war. The allies have stressed the exercises are defensive in nature.

The bomber flight came days after North Korea attempted a satellite launch that ended in failure.

The two countries began Ulchi Freedom Shield last week – a joint large-scale military exercise designed to enhance their response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats, with the second part kicking off on Monday.

Wednesday’s exercise was a demonstration of what the allies have called “extended deterrence” in the face of North Korea’s recent space launch vehicle flights and a show of “strong united defence posture”, South Korea’s defence ministry said in a statement.

On Tuesday in a speech marking Navy Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the United States and its allies of increasing the risk of nuclear war, referring to an Aug. 18 summit at Camp David between the United States, South Korea and Japan.

“Owing to the reckless confrontational moves of the U.S. and other hostile forces, the waters off the Korean Peninsula have been reduced to the world’s biggest war hardware concentration spot, the most unstable waters with the danger of a nuclear war,” Kim was quoted as saying by state media KCNA.

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