Two American stealth bombers flew over South Korea in a practice run to drop dummy munitions, the U.S. military announced Thursday. The unusual announcement is expected to further anger North Korea, which issued threats this month over recently completed U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
American forces said the B-2 Spirit bombers were sent Thursday to South Korea from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Their mission “involved flying more than 6,500 miles to the Korean peninsula, dropping inert munitions on the Jik Do Range, and returning to the continental U.S. in a single, continuous mission,” the U.S. Forces Korea said in its statement.
The U.S. made its announcement at a time of heightened tensions: In recent weeks, North Korea has threatened missile strikes on the U.S. and South Korea and declared an armistice that stilled the Korean War in 1953 to be void. Pyongyang ramped up its threats in reaction to the joint drills, which a state committee called “the most blatant provocation,” and as it was slapped with additional United Nations sanctions for carrying out its third nuclear test.
Experts don’t believe North Korea can strike the U.S. mainland, but tensions in the region could erupt into smaller conflicts. In 2010, Pyongyang launched a deadly attack on a South Korean island as South Korean forces held drills nearby; the two Koreas have also clashed at sea.