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US flies B-52 bombers over SKorea


Nuclear-capable U S Air Force B-52 bomber.

SEOUL (AFP): The United States said it was flying training missions of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea, in a clear signal to North Korea at a time of escalating military tensions.

The flights -- part of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises -- should be seen as underscoring US commitment and capacity to defend Seoul against an attack from the North, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

In response to UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test last month, North Korea has warned of a "second Korean war" and threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the South and the United States.

Little said a B-52 from Andersen Air Force base in Guam, flew over South Korea on March 8 as part of a military exercise dubbed "Foal Eagle."

"The B-52 Stratofortress can perform a variety of missions including carrying precision-guided conventional or nuclear ordnance," he said on Tuesday.

B-52s have taken part in annual exercises before, but Little said the Pentagon wanted to underline their use this time given the current, heightened tensions.

"We're drawing attention to the fact that we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important to demonstrate in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric," he said.

That message was echoed in Seoul on Tuesday by visiting Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who promised to provide South Korea with every available military resource "offered by the US nuclear umbrella."

Another B-52 training mission was carried out Wednesday, Yonhap cited a South Korean military official as saying.

"The bomber struck a simulated target in (eastern) Gangwon Province," the official said.

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