US, Japan conduct air drills after North Korea issues Guam warning


Two U.S. B-1B bombers flew air drills with two Japanese F-15s southwest of the Korean peninsula Wednesday, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was watching the behavior of the United States before deciding whether to order a missile launch toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

The two U.S. bombers took off from Anderson Air Force Base on Guam to conduct the drills with the Japanese fighter jets near the Senkaku Islands, the Air Force said in a statement.

“These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the Air Force said.

{mosads}The U.S. often flies its bombers in the region as a show of force to North Korea and others. After North Korea threatened to launch missiles near Guam last week, U.S., Japanese and South Korean aircraft flew over the Korean peninsula.

The drill comes after North Korean state media reported Tuesday that the nation was holding off on approving the planned launch.

But Kim was quoted as saying that he could still order it and was watching to see how the United States behaves.

“If the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the restraint of the DPRK [North Korea], the [North] will make an important decision as it already declared,” he said, according to state media.

On Wednesday morning, President Trump praised Kim’s “wise” decision to hold off on the launch.

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision,” Trump tweeted. “The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

If followed through, the Guam plan would be Kim’s most provocative missile launch to date.

It’s unclear how the United States would respond. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday a missile fired at the United States or its territories would be considered an act of war, but he was more ambiguous about how the U.S. would respond to a missile fired into the sea near Guam.

“Then it becomes an issue that we take up however the president chooses,” Mattis said.

“You can’t make all those kinds of decisions in advance. There’s a host of things going on. There’s allies that we consult with, as the president made very clear last week. We talked about our allies repeatedly in a statement. That’s something we have to think of. But we’re getting into hypotheticals and this sort of thing. You know, I need a certain amount of ambiguity on this, because I’m not going to tell them what I’m going to do in each case.”

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