U.S., Allies Fly Bombers, Fighter Jets in Display of Force Against North Korea Following ICBM Test

Image: A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (L) fly with South Korean fighter jet F-15K fighter jet over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill aimed to counter North Korea's missile test on July 30, 2017.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, left, and South Korean F-15K fighter jets fly over U.S. Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek on Sunday.Getty Images

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/ Source: Associated Press
By Associated Press and Amanda Proença Santos

The United States and its allies flew supersonic bombers and fighter jets over the Korea Peninsula on Sunday in a 10-hour show of force against North Korea following the country's latest ICBM launch.

The U.S. B-1 bombers first flew over Japanese airspace, where they were joined by two Japanese F-2 fighter jets, before flying over the Korean Peninsula with four South Korean F-15 fighter jets, U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, left, and South Korean F-15K fighter jets fly over U.S. Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek on Sunday.AFP - Getty Images

Escorted by the South's jets, the U.S. bombers performed a low pass over an air base near the capital, Seoul, before returning to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The Air Force said the 10-hour mission was a direct response to North Korea's two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests this month, the latest of which occurred Friday.

Analysts say the North's test Friday showed that a broader part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang's weapons.

A THAAD interceptor in an undated photo.Missile Defense Agency / Reuters

Sunday's joint mission followed the United States' test Saturday of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska, which successfully detected, tracked and intercepted a ballistic missile launched over the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Air Force.

Related: U.S. Conducts 'Successful' Test of THAAD Defense System With Ballistic Missile

"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," said Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of Pacific Air Forces. "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."

"If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing," O'Shaughnessy said.

The White House said that in a telephone call Sunday, President Donald Trump reassured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the United States stood by its "ironclad commitment to defend Japan and the Republic of Korea from any attack, using the full range of United States capabilities."

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to express his frustration with China's inability to contain North Korea.

The United States often sends powerful warplanes in times of heightened tension with North Korea. B-1 bombers have been sent to South Korea for flyovers several times this year in response to the North's missile tests, as well as after the death of a U.S. college student last month after he was released by North Korea in a coma.

A North Korean Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched at an undisclosed place in North Korea on Friday.AFP - Getty Images

The Hwasong-14 ICBM, which the North first tested on July 4, is the highlight of several new weapons systems Pyongyang launched this year. They include an intermediate-range missile that North Korea says is capable of hitting Alaska and Hawaii, as well as a solid-fuel mid-range missile, which analysts say can be fired more quickly and more secretly than liquid-fuel missiles can.

South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in a little more than six months, but an official from the South Korea president's office said there was "no possibility" that the threat from the North would interfere.

"The Republic of Korea is responding to the North Korean nuclear and missile threats through close coordination and cooperation with the international community," the official told NBC News on Sunday. "Our government will make every effort so that the PyeongChang Games will be a safe and successful gathering bringing the whole world together through harmony and peaceful exchange."

Courtney Kube and Janis Mackey Frayer contributed.