US deploys B-2 stealth bombers to S. Korea as tensions with North rise

The Pentagon said Thursday that it had sent two B-2 stealth bombers on a training mission to South Korea in a show of military force amid rising tensions with North Korea.

A statement from the U.S. Forces in Korea said the bombers would fly 6,500 miles to South Korean airspace and take part in a joint military exercise before returning to the United States

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“Demonstrating the commitment of the United States and its capability to defend the Republic of Korea and to provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Strategic Command sent two B-2 Spirit bombers for a long-duration, round-trip training mission from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to the Republic of Korea,” the military said. 

The “single continuous mission” would highlight the “United States’ ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” the statement added.

The show of Air Force strength comes as North Korea has ratcheted up its rhetoric in recent months, threatening both Seoul and Washington in reaction to U.S.-South Korean military exercises and tightened U.N. sanctions after the rogue regime conducted a third nuclear test.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang shut off a military hotline with South Korea, a direct line of communication and earlier this month threatened to attack the United States with a nuclear weapon and warned that the armistice agreement in place since the 1950s was no longer valid. 

The United States has already flown B-52 bombers above North Korea and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to augment its missile defenses in Alaska.

House GOP lawmakers have pressed for tougher sanctions against the regime to respond to the latest round of threats. New legislation could target banks that continue to do business with the regime in efforts to block North Korea from profiting from drug trafficking and missile sales. 

The White House has said the United States is prepared to defend South Korea and respond to any military threat, and urged Pyongyang to restrain its “bellicose rhetoric” after the regime threatened Washington with “miserable destruction.”