US, South Korea in talks for more US strategic assets in Korean peninsula

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Jan 7.
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Jan 7.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - The United States and its ally South Korea are in talks towards sending further strategic US assets to the Korean peninsula, a day after a US B-52 bomber flew over South Korea in response to North Korea's nuclear test last week.

"The United States and South Korea are continuously and closely having discussions on additional deployment of strategic assets," Mr Kim Min Seok, spokesman at the South Korean Defence Ministry, said on Monday (Jan 11), but declined to give specifics.

South Korean media said the strategic assets Washington may utilise included B-2 bombers, nuclear-powered submarines and F-22 stealth fighter jets.

Seoul also said on Monday that it would restrict access to the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex just north of the heavily militarised inter-Korean border to the "minimum necessary level" starting from Tuesday.

North Korea said it tested a hydrogen bomb last Wednesday, although the United States and outside experts doubt that the North had achieved such a technological advance in its fourth nuclear test. The test angered China, the North's main ally, which was not given advance notice, and the United States.

In a show of force and support for its allies in the region, the United States on Sunday sent a nuclear-capable B-52 bomber based in Guam on a flight over South Korea.

Separately, South Korea and Japan used their shared military hotline for the first time in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test, Seoul's Defence Ministry said, a sign that the North's provocation is pushing the two longtime rivals, which are Washington's main allies in the region, closer together.

South Korea has also resumed anti-North propaganda broadcasts using loudspeakers along the border, a tactic that the North considers insulting and resulted in an armed standoff that included an exchange of artillery fire the last time South Korea used the speakers in August.

South Korea's President Park Geun Hye plans to make a speech to the nation on Wednesday in which she is expected to express strong will to respond to North Korea's nuclear test, a presidential official said.

North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, said that the United States was bringing the political situation to the brink of war by sending strategic bombers to South Korea.

The chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that North Korea was likely to carry out further sudden provocations, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said. Mr Lee Sun Jin's comments were made during a visit with General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of US forces in Korea, to the Osan Air Base operated jointly with US and South Korea.