The United States flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea following the country's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.
The B-1 bombers were escorted by South Korean fighter jets as they performed a low pass over an air base near the South Korean capital of Seoul before returning to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.
It said the mission was a response to consecutive ICBM tests by North Korea this month. Analysts say flight data from the North's second ICBM test, conducted Friday night, showed that a broader part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang's weapons.
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Vice-President Mike Pence said Sunday during a visit to Estonia that the U.S. and its allies plan to increase pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear program.
"The continued provocations by the rogue regime in North Korea are unacceptable and the United States of America is going to continue to marshal the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically," Pence said.
"But the era of strategic patience is over. The president of the United States is leading a coalition of nations to bring pressure to bear until that time that North Korea will permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile program."
Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said, "North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability. 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.
U.S. should 'come to its senses'
North Korea's state-run television Korean Central Television broadcast a statement from the country's foreign ministry on Sunday defending the test missile launch and hinting at retaliation.
"The reason why (we) conducted the maximum-range simulation of ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) test launch was to send a stern warning to the U.S. that has applied sanctions against North Korea at this time, losing their mind," the statement said.
"If the U.S. fails to come to its senses and continues to resort to military adventure and 'tough sanctions,' the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) will respond with its resolute act of justice as already declared," it said.
Trump lashes out at China
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said on Twitter that he was "very disappointed in China" for not discouraging North Korea's missile program and that Beijing could "easily solve this problem."
...they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!— @realDonaldTrump
I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet...— @realDonaldTrump
"The time for talk is over," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement Sunday. She denied reports that Washington would seek an emergency session of the UN Security Council, saying that new sanctions that fail to increase pressure would be "worse than nothing."
Haley said a weak resolution would show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that "the international community is unwilling to challenge him," and she singled out China, the North's biggest trading partner, as a country that must change its approach.
Done talking about NKorea.China is aware they must act.Japan & SKorea must inc pressure.Not only a US problem.It will req an intl solution.— @nikkihaley
Canada has weighed in with its own condemnation of the missile launch.
"This act is yet another direct violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions, further demonstrating North Korea's blatant disregard for its international obligations, and reflects a broader, dangerous effort to expand its destabilizing influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and farther afield," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday.
"North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are a real and grave threat to international peace and security," she said in a statement.
"Continued provocations will only further isolate the North Korean regime, and strengthen the resolve of the international community to counter this threat.
"Canada will continue to work with key partners in the international community, to pressure North Korea to completely and verifiably abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and resume dialogue toward a political solution."
The U.S. often sends powerful warplanes in times of heightened tensions with North Korea. B-1 bombers have been sent to South Korea for flyovers several times this year in response to the North's banned missile tests, and also following the death of a U.S. college student last month after he was released by North Korea in a coma.
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, and a solid-fuel midrange missile, which analysts say can be fired faster and more secretly than liquid-fuel missiles.
The U.S. Missile Defence Agency said a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, system located in Kodiak, Alaska, was successfully tested on Saturday night. It said that a medium-range ballistic missile was air-launched over the Pacific, and that the THAAD system detected, tracked and intercepted the target.