SEOUL – The United States Air Force has flowen four F-22 fighter jets through South Korean airspace in the latest show of force against North Korea over its nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.
The flight took place Wednesday south of Seoul alongside South Korean F-15 fighter jets and demonstrated “the resolve of both nations to maintain stability on the Korean peninsula,” the U.S. Forces Korea said in an emailed statement. The U.S. previously flew a B-52 long-range bomber in South Korea after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un followed up the test with a long-range rocket launch to put a satellite in space on Feb. 7. The U.S. and South Korea condemned the action as a test of a ballistic missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead. They also agreed to start talks on deploying a U.S. ballistic missile defense system in South Korea, drawing a protest from China that sees it as a threat to its national interests.
Tensions may heighten further later this month or in early March when the allies conduct joint military drills that North Korea routinely calls a rehearsal for invasion. The United Nations Security Council is also considering a new round of sanctions against North Korea for the nuclear test and rocket launch.
On Tuesday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye vowed “powerful” measures to force North Korea to drop its nuclear ambitions, warning of a regime collapse if Kim remains defiant. North Korea expelled South Koreans from a jointly run industrial complex last week after the Park government decided to shut it down in response to the rocket launch.