G-20 summit

US live-fire drill as Xi, Trump, Abe discuss N. Korea

US bombers and South Korean and US fighter jets were involved in yesterday's live-fire drill near the Demilitarised Zone, held in response to what the US describes as Pyongyang's "increasingly escalatory actions".
US bombers and South Korean and US fighter jets were involved in yesterday's live-fire drill near the Demilitarised Zone, held in response to what the US describes as Pyongyang's "increasingly escalatory actions".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Trump, Xi and Abe meet separately to discuss response to Pyongyang after its missile test

SEOUL/HAMBURG • US bombers carried out a rare live-fire drill in South Korea yesterday, flying close to the Demilitarised Zone in a show of force after the North test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting Alaska.

The B-1B Lancers, deployed from the US base in Guam, conducted an air-to-surface firing drill in Gangwon province, near the border with North Korea, the United States Air Force said in a statement.

They were joined by South Korean and US fighter jets. The mission was in response to the "increasingly escalatory actions" by Pyongyang, including the firing of an ICBM, the Pacific Air Forces said.

The long-range heavy aircraft each dropped a 900kg laser- guided bunker-busting smart bomb, Yonhap news agency said. The US statement said the B-1Bs released "inert" weapons.

"Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverise enemy command posts," the South's air force said.

En route back to Guam, the B-1Bs flew and integrated with Japanese fighter jets over the East China Sea, the Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

'INCREASINGLY SEVERE' SITUATION

As I look at the current situation, particularly the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region including North Korea, we believe that it has become increasingly severe.

JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE

"The US-Japan alliance and the relationship between our militaries are stronger than they have ever been," said US Forces Japan commander Jerry Martinez.

The US Missile Defence Agency said last Friday it would soon carry out a new test of its Thaad missile defence system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile in Alaska, days after North Korea's ICBM test.

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, US President Donald Trump told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping yesterday that "something has to be done" about North Korea. "It may take longer than I'd like, it may take longer than you'd like," Mr Trump said. "But there will be success in the end, one way or the other."

The US President, who has urged Mr Xi to use China's economic leverage to pressure Pyongyang, said he appreciated what Mr Xi has done. He had expressed some impatience with China after North Korea tested the ICBM, which Pyongyang said could carry a large nuclear warhead.

Before the meeting with the Chinese leader, Mr Trump met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who noted the "severe" situation in the region. "As I look at the current situation, particularly the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region including North Korea, we believe that it has become increasingly severe," he told Mr Trump.

Earlier in the day, Mr Xi and Mr Abe agreed at their meeting to enhance talks and exchanges and continue to put pressure on Pyongyang, according to Japan's Kyodo News. 

In their first formal discussion in 10 months, Mr Abe invited Mr Xi to visit Japan next year and said he hoped for a long-overdue summit between the two countries plus South Korea, Kyodo reported.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, Mr Xi urged Mr Abe to put aside "distractions" that have strained bilateral ties. Relations have been complicated for decades by the legacy of Japan's wartime aggression.

Mr Xi also told Mr Abe the two countries were important neighbours, and said the healthy development of ties was of importance to the rest of the world, Xinhua said.

He urged Japan to learn from history so as to have a "better future" in its ties with China, it added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'US, S. Korea hold live-fire drill near the North'. Print Edition | Subscribe