The United States is flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers on training missions over South Korea to highlight Washington's commitment to defend an ally amid rising tensions with North Korea, Pentagon officials said Monday.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said one B-52 flew over South Korea on March 8, and the deputy defense secretary, Ashton Carter, said during a visit to Seoul that another bomber mission is scheduled for Tuesday.
B-52 bombers are capable of launching nuclear-armed cruise missiles, but Little said those participating in the Korean exercise are not armed with nuclear weapons... the Pentagon used the occasion to draw attention to the role B-52 bombers play as part of an American nuclear "umbrella" over South Korea and Japan - both of which feel threatened by North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
"We're deeply concerned about North Koreans behavior and rhetoric," Little told reporters.
In a more dramatic demonstration of that concern, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday announced that the U.S. is beefing up its defenses against a potential North Korean missile attack on the U.S. He said that over the coming four years the Pentagon will add 14 missile interceptors to the 26 it already has in place at Fort Greely, Alaska, at an estimated cost of $1 billion.
Obama's reversal on a missile-defense shield is particularly troubling. As The Wall Street Journal puts it, his about-face represents a "A tacit admission that the U.S. will soon be vulnerable to attack."