U.S. 'Bombs' North Korea in Military Exercises in Korean Peninsula Drill

A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet takes off from the deck of U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an annual joint military exercise called "Foal Eagle" between South Korea and U.S., in the East Sea, South Korea, March 14, 2017. Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The U.S. deployed strategic bombers Tuesday to South Korea to participate in mock air raids in the Korean Peninsula as part of Washington and Seoul's ongoing massive joint military exercises simulating a war with North Korea.

South Korean F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets flew alongside the U.S. Air Force's B-1B strategic bomber in South Korea's Air Defense Identification Zone, South Korea's KBS radio reported Wednesday. The aircraft conducted operations simulating a crisis situation in the Korean Peninsula, where neighboring rival nations technically remain at a state of war since fighting in the 1950s. Since the conflict, Washington has maintained a military treaty with Seoul. The annual large-scale drills. known as "Foal Eagle," have been considered a major provocation by nuclear-armed Pyongyang, which has threatened to strike if it felt its sovereignty was threatened by the nearby operations.

The U.S. bomber had reportedly left from the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and performed training exercises with Japanese F-15J fighters before joining the South Korean drills. Japan, another regional U.S. ally, has also expressed concern over militant rhetoric from North Korea, and conducted its first-ever civilian air raid drills last week after Pyongyang launched a barrage of missiles into the sea near Japanese territory.

The U.S. Navy's USS Columbus nuclear submarine was next to join the exercises. The Los Angeles-class submarine was described by the Navy as specializing in "undersea warfare" but also capable of striking targets on the surface and land, laying mines and deploying special forces. The vessel's deployment followed the arrival of the Navy's USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to join the war games.

North Korea's development of nuclear weapons in spite of U.N. Security Council sanctions has been a source of heightened regional tensions. Over the past week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited South Korea, Japan and China and stressed "a different approach" on tackling Pyongyang, saying that "all options were on the table" including possible military action. China has traditionally been North Korea's strongest ally, but Beijing has censured Pyongyang for its renegade nuclear program, agreeing to impose sanctions along with the U.S.

North Korea attempted a missile launch Wednesday, which the U.S. and South Korea said failed when the projectile exploded shortly after launching.