By Ben Blanchard and Hyonhee Shin
BEIJING/SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. military staged bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula and Russia and China began naval exercises on Monday ahead of a U.N. General Assembly meeting this week where North Korea’s nuclear threat is likely to loom large.
The flurry of military drills came after Pyongyang fired another mid-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday and the reclusive North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 in defiance of United Nations sanctions and other international pressure.
A pair of U.S. B-1B bombers and four F-35 jets flew from Guam and Japan and joined four South Korean F-15K fighters in the latest drill, South Korea’s defence ministry said.
The joint drills were being conducted “two to three times a month these days”, Defence Minister Song Young-moo told a parliamentary hearing on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency in Beijing said China and Russia began naval drills off the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok, not far from the Russia-North Korea border.
Those drills were being conducted between Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok, and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan, it said.
The drills are the second part of China-Russian naval exercises this year, the first part of which were staged in the Baltic in July. The Xinhua report did not directly link the drills to current tensions over North Korea.
China and Russia have repeatedly called for a peaceful solution and talks to resolve the issue.
On Sunday, however, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the U.N. Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea’s nuclear programme and the United States might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the most pressing task at present was for all parties to enforce the latest U.N. resolutions on North Korea fully rather than “deliberately complicating the issue”.
Military threats from various parties have not promoted a resolution to the issue, he said.
“This is not beneficial to a final resolution to the peninsula nuclear issue,” Lu told a daily news briefing.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be able to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.
Asked about Trump’s warning last month that the North Korean threat to the United States would be met with “fire…