Only days after North Korean officials met with representatives from the South Korean government to discuss a peaceful solution to ongoing tensions ahead of the Olympic Games, American forces have given the North Korean government yet another incentive to begin thinking about peace.
On Tuesday, the Pacific Air Forces (PAF) announced that the United States had dispatched three stealth bombers with nuclear capabilities to the Korean peninsula. The Washington Examiner has reported that the force contains 200 airmen and three B-2 Spirits which will supplement that B-1 conventional bombers which are already present in the region. The airmen and the planes which be based at the US Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Guam is considered to be the most vulnerable US territory with regards to ongoing tensions with North Korea. In 2017, North Korea launched a missile over Japan, and the test range indicates that the North Korean military are capable of striking the Andersen Air Force Base with a missile. The North Koreans have repeatedly boasted about their ability to strike at Guam if they chose to and have made explicit threats in the past. In October 2017, North Korea threatened the Pacific nation with a ‘salvo of missions’ and claimed that the hand was ‘closer to the trigger’ because of the joint US-South Korean military drills which are considered contentious by the North Korean elite. On other occasions, the North Korean has threatened that the US ought to be ‘tamed with fire’ with explicit reference to an assault on Guam.
However, the US military has claimed that the bombers have not simply been deployed to stem the North Korean threat. According to Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, the bomber deployment should not be viewed “within the single lens of what it means to the Korean Peninsula.” He went on to say that the military wanted to ‘send a signal to everyone.’ This led to reporters questioning whether the bombers were also intended to issue a warning to China.
Speaking on the topic of North Korea, McKenzie said that the Olympics would not stop the United States from launching an airstrike.
The deployment of the bombers to the Guam base is likely to be met kindly in North Korea. Kim Jong Un used his New Year’s Address to boast about the nuclear capabilities of his country and to call for the mass production and deployment of nuclear bombs and missiles on an enormous scale.