A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, flew to the Pacific over the weekend on the eve of drills used to help hone command and control of America’s nuclear forces.
U.S. Strategic Command said sending the bomber demonstrated the United States’ commitment to partners and allies as North Korea escalates its threatening rhetoric while continuing its frequent missile tests.
The bomber, which flew from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, finished its mission just as StratCom began “Global Thunder”—annual exercises meant to hone StratCom’s cyber, space, and nuclear capabilities.
The drills come amid heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States over the communist regime’s nuclear weapons program, and on the heels of massive naval drills.
“These exercises achieve the vision of a unified team, integrating all the capabilities of U.S. Strategic Command across the globe wherever and whenever needed,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of StratCom in a statement.
Hyten said integration of those capabilities ensured StratCom could deal with “any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.”
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) October 29, 2017
StratCom reveals little about their annual exercise, but a public affairs officer said Global Thunder helped Stratcom forces prepare for threats against the United States.
“It’s definitely across the board, any sort of strategic attacks, regardless of what domain that would be in, but nuclear would absolutely be a part of that,” said Bekah Clark, a public affairs officer with StatCom.
Global Thunder takes place around this time every year, but this year its launch on Oct. 30 coincided with yet another threat of nuclear attack by North Korea.
According to KCNA Watch, a website that monitors and translates news reports from North Korea, the official newspaper of the regime’s ruling Workers’ Party issued a new threat on Monday.
The threat comes in response to ongoing sanctions against North Korea and recent joint military drills between U.S., South Korean, and Japanese forces.
“The U.S., Japan and the south Korean puppet forces should clearly understand that the horrible nightmare, in which U.S. mainland turns into ashes and the Japanese archipelago is buried in the Pacific as a whole and the south Korean land is devastated, can be put into a reality any moment,” read the editorial.
North Korea’s ongoing provocations and repeated threats of nuclear attack have prompted an increase in joint military drills between U.S. and allied forces.
Those drills have seen U.S., Japanese, and South Korean forces conduct new combined exercises and practice for new capabilities, including joint nighttime air missions.
This year, Global Thunder will wrap up just as President Donald Trump arrives in Japan on Nov. 5 for a major tour of the Asia Pacific region. After Japan, Trump will visit South Korea, China, Vietnam, and The Philippines.
A senior official in the White House said one objective of the trip was to reinforce the United State’s commitment to its allies in the region.
The official said Trump would visit Camp Humphreys in South Korea, home to the busiest U.S. Army airfield in Asia, and what he described as an excellent example of cooperation between South Korea and the United States.