- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2017

The swift American display of military might in the Pacific, beginning hours after North Korea’s second successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, culminated Sunday with a flyover by a pair of nuclear-capable U.S. bombers over the peninsula.

The Guam-based supersonic B-1 bombers, accompanied by a number of South Korean fighters, performed a series of low-altitude passes Sunday over a key air base near the South Korean capital of Seoul. The mission was in direct response to North Korea’s long-range missile test on Friday, said officials from U.S. Pacific Command.

North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in a statement issued Sunday.

“Diplomacy remains the lead. However, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario,” Gen. O’Shaughnessy added, according to The Associated Press. “If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”

Pentagon officials confirmed the successful test launch by North Korean forces on Friday. Launched from Mupyong-ni in north-central North Korea, the missile traveled about more than 600 miles before crashing into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, U.S. defense officials said. The missile reached a higher altitude than the North’s July 3 test, which had been Pyongyang’s highest missile launch.

Although officials from North American Aerospace Defense Command said Friday’s test posed no threat to the U.S., the missile’s range theoretically puts it within striking distance of targets inside the continental United States, Japan and South Korea.

U.S. defense officials have touted the viability of the American ballistic missile apparatus over the past several months. The Pentagon is poised to invest billions of dollars in such technology as part of President Trump’s first defense budget. Defense officials also are spearheading a policy overhaul of the Pentagon’s approach to missile defense operations.

Late Saturday, Mr. Trump threatened tougher trade action against China because it had failed to pressure North Korea to halt launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“I am very disappointed in China,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk.”

Mr. Trump warned, “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

Mr. Trump made a concerted effort this year to encourage Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to scale back its nuclear weapon and missile programs and reduce tensions in the region. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials conducted a missile intercept test Sunday morning using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, battery based in Kodiak, Alaska — which is reportedly in range of Pyongyang’s long-range missile.

Missile crews with the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Kodiak used THAAD to take out a mock midrange ballistic missile launched from a C-17 in the skies above the Pacific.

The THAAD system, which is designed primarily to take out short- to mid-range missiles, has been rankling Pyongyang and its allies in Beijing since Washington ordered its deployment into South Korea.

Beijing has long opposed the weapon’s deployment, claiming THAAD missiles could be used to take out Chinese missile sites.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had sought to engage North Korea in dialogue, reversed his policy Saturday and ordered his military to confer with U.S. officials to place THAAD batteries in his country.

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