SEOUL • The United States yesterday flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula and carried out a test of its missile defence system in a show of force after Pyongyang's recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
North Korea said it had conducted another successful test of an ICBM last Friday that proved its ability to strike America's mainland, drawing a sharp warning from US President Donald Trump.
The B-1B flight was in direct response to the missile test and the earlier July 4 launch of the Hwasong-14 rocket, the US statement said.
The bombers took off from a US airbase in Guam, and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise, according to the statement.
"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence O'Shaughnessy said in the statement. "If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing."
In the latest test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, a medium-range missile was launched from a US Air Force C-17 aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean, and a Thaad unit in Alaska "detected, tracked and intercepted the target", the US Missile Defence Agency said.
The agency said the test was planned well before North Korea's latest missile launch. It added that the US has now successfully intercepted test targets 15 times for its Thaad system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the midnight test launch of the missile last Friday, and said it was a "stern warning" for the US that it would not be safe from destruction if it tries to attack, the North's official KCNA news agency said.
China, the North's main ally, said it opposed North Korea's missile launches, which it said violate United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to curb Pyongyang's banned nuclear and missile programmes. "At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
However, Mr Trump said he was "very disappointed in China".
In a few messages on Twitter, he said: "Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet... they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"
North Korea said yesterday it had been forced to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons because of hostile intent by "American imperialist beasts".
Its latest missile test came a day after the US Senate approved a package of sanctions on North Korea, Russia and Iran.