- Flights over South Korea follow Pyongyang's rocket launch
- Tensions may rise further when U.S., South Korea hold drills
The U.S. Air Force flew 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 e-mailed 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.