US bombers fly close to North Korea in a show of force
North Korean foreign minister says the firing of rockets at the US mainland is ‘inevitable’
US air force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighter jets flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday, in a show of force the Pentagon said demonstrated the range of military options available to US president Donald Trump.
The flight, which was disclosed shortly before North Korea’s foreign minister was due to address the UN, was the farthest north of the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea that any US fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st-century, the Pentagon said.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, calling North Korea’s weapons programme “a grave threat”.
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
In his address to the UN General Assembly, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said that firing Pyongyang’s rockets at the US mainland was “inevitable”.
Ri said Trump was “a mentally-deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” who was trying to turn the UN into a “gangsters’ nest”.
Ri said Trump himself was on a “suicide mission”.
“‘President Evil’ is holding the seat of the US president,” Ri said, warning that Pyongyang was ready to defend itself if the US showed any sign of conducting a “decapitating operation on our headquarters or military attack against our country”.
“Now we are finally only a few steps away from the final gate of completion of the state nuclear force,” Ri told the annual gathering of world leaders.
He said sanctions would have no effect on Pyongyang’s resolve to develop its nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal being “balance of power with the US”.
The incidents follow a week of heightened rhetoric from Washington and Pyongyang, with Trump and Kim Jong-un trading insults.
Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” on Friday, a day after Kim dubbed him a “mentally-deranged US dotard”.
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3rd and has launched dozens of missiles this year as it accelerates a programme aimed at enabling it to target the US with a nuclear-tipped missile. The North has also threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.
The Pentagon said the B-1B Lancer bombers came from Guam and the US air force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts came from Okinawa, Japan. It said the operation showed the seriousness with which it took North Korea’s “reckless behaviour”.