BEIJING/SEOUL • The US military staged bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula and Russia and China began naval exercises ahead of a UN General Assembly meeting today, where North Korea's nuclear threat is likely to loom large.
The flurry of military drills came after Pyongyang fired another mid-range ballistic missile over Japan last Friday, after the reclusive North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept 3 in defiance of UN sanctions and other international pressure.
A pair of US B-1B bombers and four F-35 jets flew from Guam and Japan, joining four South Korean F-15K fighters in the latest drill, South Korea's defence ministry said.
The joint drills were being conducted "two to three times a month these days", Defence Minister Song Young Moo told a parliamentary hearing yesterday.
In Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency said China and Russia began naval drills off the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok, not far from the Russia-North Korea border.
Those drills were being conducted between Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok, and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan, it said.
The drills are the second part of China-Russian naval exercises this year, the first part of which was staged in the Baltic in July. Xinhua did not directly link the drills to current tension over North Korea.
China and Russia have repeatedly called for a peaceful solution and talks to resolve the issue.
On Sunday, however, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea's nuclear programme and the US might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.
North Korea yesterday called the resolution "the most vicious, unethical and inhumane act of hostility to physically exterminate" its people, system and government.
"The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure... will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by its official KCNA news agency.
Petrol and diesel prices in the North have surged since the latest nuclear test in anticipation of a possible oil ban, according to market data analysed by Reuters yesterday.
The US and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.