WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. 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 President Donald Trump.
The flight, which was disclosed shortly before North Korea’s foreign minister was due to address the United Nations, was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any U.S. fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century, the Pentagon said.
“This mission is a demonstration of U.S. 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 program “a grave threat.”
Note: Note the wording, not options, but ‘military’ options
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.”
The flight follows 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 U.S. dotard.”
Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, in a bellicose first address to the United Nations general assembly in which he lashed out at a litany of US adversaries and called on “righteous” countries to confront them.
The speech was greeted in the UN chamber mostly with silence and occasional outbreaks of disapproving murmurs, as Trump castigated a succession of hostile regimes.
In an address heavy with echoes of George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil” State of the Union address more than 15 years earlier, Trump said: “The scourge of our planet today are a small group of rogue regimes.
“If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,” the president said.
He first singled out North Korea, recounting its history of kidnapping, oppression, and missile and nuclear tests.
“The US has great strength and patience,” Trump said. But he added: “If it is forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
As alarmed murmurs spread around the hall, Trump had another barb. Using his newly adopted epithet for Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3 and has launched dozens of missiles this year as it accelerates a program aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. The North has threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.
The Pentagon said the B-1B Lancer bombers came from Guam and the U.S. 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 behavior.”
North Korea staged a mass rally in the heart of its capital on Saturday to hail leader Kim Jong Un’s pledge to fight against U.S. President Donald Trump.
About 100,000 people packed Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square in the late afternoon in a show of support for Kim’s statement vowing to have Trump “pay dearly” for his recent U.N. speech.
The statement was read out during the rally and the participants, including senior members of the Workers’ Party of Korea, called for retaliatory measures against the United States.
In the first-ever statement issued in the name of the North Korean leader, he said, “Now that Trump has…insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war…we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure.”
“It is really idiotic if the U.S. president thought that he could shock us with such nonsensical remarks,” Kim Yong Il, 29, a university student, told Kyodo News.
The participants also marched in the huge square with placards bearing pugnacious slogans such as “nuclear thunder to the United States.”
The ruling party and its military also held similar rallies on Friday, when Kim’s statement was reported by the country’s official media.
The extraordinary statement has raised fears that North Korea could conduct yet another major weapons test in the days ahead.
But a number of North Korea watchers have pointed out that Kim’s use of the words “consider with seriousness” suggest that his country’s next action may be conditional, depending on Trump’s future stance.
Trump, however, said in a Twitter message on Friday night that Kim, “who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”
The international community has already condemned North Korea multiple times for its flurry of nuclear and missile tests.
Still, Trump’s recent inflammatory and forthright comments on North Korea only escalated tensions.
In his debut address to world leaders at this year’s U.N. General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Trump said that if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, it will have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Trump even went on to mock Kim as “Rocket Man,” on “a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
In his conclusion to the statement, Kim, in return, said he will “definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” referring to Trump.
The rhetorical combat continues as many other countries are concerned about potentially more serious consequences as North Korea quickens the pace of developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
16 hours ago | KYODO NEWS