SEOUL • North Korea has accused the US of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war after a pair of strategic US bombers flew training drills with the South Korean and Japanese air forces in another show of strength.
The two supersonic B-1B Lancer bombers were deployed amid rising tensions over North Korea's pursuit of its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of United Nations sanctions and US pressure.
The flight of the bombers on Monday came as US President Donald Trump said he was open to meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in appropriate circumstances, even though Pyongyang suggested that it would continue its nuclear tests.
South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said Monday's joint drill was conducted to deter provocations by the North and to test readiness against another potential nuclear test.
The US Air Force said the bombers had flown from Guam for training exercises with the South Korean and Japanese air forces.
North Korea said the bombers conducted "a nuclear bomb dropping drill against major objects" in its territory at a time when Mr Trump and "other US warmongers are crying out for making a preemptive nuclear strike" on the North. "The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war," the North's official KCNA news agency said yesterday.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high for weeks, driven by fears that the North might conduct its sixth nuclear test in defiance of pressure from the US and Pyongyang's major ally, China.
China's Global Times, a state- backed tabloid, said in an editorial late on Monday that the US should not rely on China alone to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear ambitions.
South Korea's Acting President Hwang Kyo Ahn yesterday called for cooperation from countries such as China "to put pressure on the North".
Mr Trump said on Monday he would be "honoured" to meet the North's young leader. "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honoured to do it," he told Bloomberg News in comments that drew criticism in Washington.
He did not say what conditions were needed for such a meeting but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said: "Clearly, conditions are not there right now."
Mr Trump told Reuters last Thursday that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible, while China said last week that the situation could escalate or slip out of control.