After Kim Jong Un Backs Off, U.S. and Japan Fly Bombers Near Korean Peninsula

The United States and Japan conducted air drills Wednesday, flying bombers and jets, as tensions with North Korea and leader Kim Jong Un appeared to have cooled slightly following a testy week loaded with threats and nuclear war rhetoric.

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. island territory that was directly threatened with a missile strike by the North last week, and two Japanese F-15 fighter jets drilled to the southwest of the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported, citing a release from Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

“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 U.S. Air Force said.

The drills also come after Kim issued a terse warning Monday after going over a plan to strike Guam with four missiles. But he also appeared to roll back his rhetoric even though he referred to the U.S. as “the Yankees.”

RTS1AZ4C One of two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers prepares to take off for a 10-hour mission, to fly in the vicinity of Kyushu, Japan, the East China Sea, and the Korean peninsula, from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, August 8. U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/Handout via REUTERS

“He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous, reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared,” a statement from the North’s KCNA state-run news agency read.

The U.S and Japan, along with South Korea, have been conducting naval and air drills throughout the region for some time and much to the consternation of both the North and neighboring China. Beijing has particularly stressed that the drilling has only served to further incite Kim, who has repeatedly accused the U.S. and its Asian allies of preparing an invasion or preemptive strike to topple his authoritarian regime, and who uses this as justification for the North’s own missile drills and nuclear programs.

The drills also come following a meeting between two of the top military leaders of the U.S. and China, which has been tasked by President Donald Trump to step up its actions to hinder Kim and the North’s threats.

“He emphasized that the U.S. and China have the same goal—a denuclearized Korean peninsula achieved through peaceful means.... North Korean actions threaten the economic and military security of China,” a U.S. military spokesman said in a statement.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Tuesday with his Chinese counterpart, Fang Fenghui, and reportedly discussed the importance of China taking a larger role in the standoff. China has forcefully called for diplomacy and spoken against the possibility of escalation posed by threats like Trump’s “fire and fury” comment last week.

“In the interest of regional stability, [General Dunford] said the U.S. views with growing urgency the need for China to increase pressure on the North Korean regime,” a U.S. military spokesperson told Reuters in a statement regarding the meeting.

“Should preferred diplomatic and economic peaceful options fail, General Dunford reiterated America’s resolve to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan, as well as the U.S. homeland,” the statement read.

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