By Jung Yeon-je ,AFP
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The U.S. sent a heavy bomber over South Korea on Sunday in a show of force as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un insisted his country’s latest nuclear test was carried out in self-defense. The test on Wednesday of what the North claimed was its first hydrogen bomb has sparked international alarm and raised tensions along the inter-Korean frontier, with Seoul reviving cross-border propaganda broadcasts. Sunday’s overflight saw a B52 Stratofortress, which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, briefly roar over the Osan Air Base, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of the inter-Korean border, the U.S. military and an eye-witness said. It was escorted by a South Korean and an American jet. The B52 conducted a low-level flight before heading back to Andersen Air Base in Guam, where it is stationed. The mission was conducted “in response to recent provocative action by North Korea,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement. The aircraft are known to have taken part in joint annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises that have enraged Pyongyang, but their flights over South Korea are rarely publicized.
The last time such a flight was made public was in 2013, after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test. At that time, the U.S. dispatched both a B52 and the more sophisticated B2 stealth bomber to South Korea in a show of military muscle against the North. On Sunday, Pyongyang state media called for the establishment of a peace accord to stabilize the Korean Peninsula and described the nation’s nuclear arsenal as a “treasured sword” that defends the country’s sovereignty.
The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 war ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. “Gone are days never to return when the U.S. could threaten the DPRK with nuclear weapons,” said ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
Wednesday’s nuclear test was Pyongyang’s fourth, though experts have questioned North Korea’s claim of the explosion having been triggered by a hydrogen bomb. On Friday, the North’s state broadcaster also released video footage of a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, though South Korean media have suggested the footage was an edited compilation of a previous test.