U.S. B-1B strategic bomber returns to S. Korea as N.K. fires missile

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. B-1B strategic bomber returned to South Korea for joint exercises Sunday, just 16 days after its previous deployment, as Pyongyang fired yet another ballistic missile into the East Sea, according to the defense ministry.

The drills took place in skies over the Korean Peninsula as part of the Freedom Shield exercise that has been under way since March 13, and also involved F-35A stealth fighter jets of South Korea and U.S. F-16 fighters, the ministry said.

A B-1B bomber was previously deployed to the peninsula on March 3.

The deployment, seen as a show of force against North Korea, came as the North fired a short-range ballistic missile toward the East Sea earlier Sunday, three days after Pyongyang test-fired a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The defense ministry said the joint air drills demonstrated the robust combined defense posture of the South Korean and U.S. air forces and commitment to extended deterrence, while enhancing the allies' interoperability and wartime capabilities.

"The South Korea-U.S. alliance is maintaining the highest level of combined defense posture against North Korea's consistent threats to regional stability and will achieve 'peace through strength' based on the allies' robust capabilities and posture, while enhancing trust in the U.S. extended deterrence," the ministry said in a statement.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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