US B-52 bomber joins drills with SKorea amid NKorea tension
PHOTO CAPTION: A B-52 Stratofortress, 2nd Bomb Wing, participates in Vigilant Shield 15 at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Oct. 24, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo)
By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - A U.S. B-52 strategic bomber took part in military exercises with South Korea on Friday, Seoul officials said, in the latest show of force amid tension over North Korea's failed launch of a spy satellite.
The U.S. military also flew its F-16 and F-15 fighters alongside the bomber for the drills, which were joined by South Korean F-35 and KF-16 jets, Seoul's defence ministry said.
North Korea unsuccessfully tried to launch its first spy satellite early this month, prompting emergency alerts and brief evacuation warnings in parts of South Korea though the booster and payload plunged into the sea shortly after lift-off.
The drills, together with the recent arrival in South Korea of a U.S. nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine for the first time in nearly six years, were evidence of the enhanced frequency and intensity of the deployment of U.S. strategic assets, the ministry said.
The exercises also demonstrated the allies' commitment to bolstering combined defence posture by "improving interoperability between the extended deterrence force, including the U.S. nuclear force, and our military's cutting-edge conventional force," the ministry said in a statement.
The two countries' militaries have been carrying out various training exercises since March, including air and sea drills involving a U.S. aircraft carrier and B-1B and B-52 bombers.
North Korea has denounced the exercises as a rehearsal for war, accusing the allies of ramping up "nuclear blackmail."
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed at a summit in April to boost the deployment of American strategic assets as part of measures to better respond to North Korea's weapons tests.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Kim Coghill)