By Jack Kim and Kaori Kaneko
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – South Korean and Japanese jets joined exercises with two U.S. nuclear-capable bombers above and near the Korean peninsula on Thursday, two days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan, sharply raising tension.
The drills, involving two supersonic U.S. B-1B bombers, four U.S. stealth F-35B jets as well as South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, came at the end of annual joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises focused mainly on computer simulations.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, who made an unscheduled visit to Japan to meet his counterparts.
“This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”
North Korea has made no secret of its intention to develop the knowhow to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at the United States and has recently threatened the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
U.S. President Donald Trump has issued his own threats, warning North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States and that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” in case of any provocation.
Trump on Wednesday declared “talking is not the answer” to resolving the long-standing impasse.
“The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Trump, who last week said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “starting to respect” the United States, wrote on Twitter.
“Talking is not the answer!”
However, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, when asked by reporters just hours later if the United States had run out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea, replied: “No.”
“We are never out of diplomatic solutions,” Mattis said before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon. “We continue to work together, and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests.”
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera spoke to Mattis by telephone and agreed to keep putting pressure on North Korea in a “visible” form, Japan’s defense ministry said. Japanese Prime Shinzo Abe said he and…