U.S. F-22 advanced stealth warplanes flew to South Korea Sunday to join ongoing joint military exercises there, a further demonstration of U.S. military superiority meant to intimidate and cow Pyongyang.
The deployment comes as the strategic temperature on the divided peninsula ratcheted to fever pitch over the weekend.
Tensions have been high since the second week in March when month-long U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises commenced and the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea to punish its illegal nuclear test in February.
But over the weekend, North Korea declared it was in an “actual state of war” with the South, and Pyongyang’s state media reported that third generation hereditary dictator Kim Jong-Un had signed off on a war plan including missile strikes against the United States.
In reality, analysts say, North Korean missiles can reach U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan, but not U.S. territory.
South Korea has vowed a strong response to any aggressive North Korea act.
The U.S. military command in South Korea said the deployment was going ahead despite big cuts to the training budget being carried out as part of the sequester — the series of deep, across-the-board sending cuts in federal agencies including the Pentagon which kicked in this month.
“Despite challenges with fiscal constraints, training opportunities remain important to ensure U.S. forces are battle-ready and trained to employ airpower to deter aggression, defend [South Korea] and defeat any attack against the alliance,” the command said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
Last week, U.S. nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers dropped dummy ordinance on South Korean islands as part of the drill and defense officials pledged continuing demonstrations of American military might to deter North Korea.
The stealth capabilities of U.S. airpower underline a key weakness of North Korea’s — it lacks the advanced technology needed for early warning of attacks by stealth planes.
“They have no way to detect the most dangerous weapons with which the United States can attack them, no way to get any warning,” veteran military intelligence analyst and Korea-watcher John McCreary told The Washington Times.
“That is very scary for them.”
Senior North Korean leaders are meeting this week in the annual plenum of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party.
U.S. officials are watching closely to see whether the North continues its threats to lash out against American and allies in the region, the journal said.