US B-1B strategic bombers in training with South Korea on the day of the North Korean missile launch.

Tokyo, Japan

US strategic bombers took part in a joint air exercise with South Korean forces on Sunday, the same day that North Korea conducted an alleged ballistic missile test, the South Korean military said.

The exercise involved US B-1B strategic bombers, South Korean Air Force F-35A stealth fighters and US Air Force F-16 fighter jets, and was part of the Freedom Shield joint exercise, the military said in a press release.

News of the exercise came the same day that North Korea launched a suspected ballistic missile into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, shortly after 11 a.m. local time, according to the Japanese defense ministry and the South Korean army.

However, South Korea’s defense ministry has not confirmed whether the drills were conducted with US bombers before or after the missile was launched.

“The South Korean-US alliance maintains the best combined defensive posture in the face of North Korea’s ongoing regional instability,” the South Korean military said in a press release.

“Moving forward, we will implement Peace Through Strength and increase confidence in an extended U.S. deterrent based on the credible capabilities and position of the alliance,” he added.

The alleged ballistic missile launched by North Korea on Sunday reached a maximum altitude of approximately 50 km (31 miles) and flew approximately 800 km (497 miles), according to the Japanese Defense Ministry. According to the South Korean military, it was released from the Dongchanri region of North Pyongan province in North Korea and landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

After the missile landed, the Japanese Coast Guard alerted all ships to wait for more information; do not approach fallen objects; and report anything suspicious.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the military has stepped up surveillance and vigilance in preparation for additional launches while “maintaining a state of full readiness through close cooperation with the United States.”

North Korea often responds to what it sees as “provocations” from the US with belligerent threats. Its leader Kim Jong-un accused the US and South Korea of ​​rising tensions as a result of joint military exercises.

The last run follows flurry of missile tests North Korea, including one long-range ballistic missile Thursday meeting of the leaders of South Korea and Japan in Tokyo and the launch of two cruise missiles from a submarine and two short-range ballistic missiles a few days before.

Both the Japanese and South Korean governments strongly condemned Sunday’s rocket launch, which they said was “a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Pyongyang’s repeated launches “threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community,” the Japanese defense ministry said in a statement.

US-South Korea joint military exercises in spring biggest war games the allies arranged for five years.

In the run-up to the 11-day Freedom Shield exercise, North Korea threatened “the toughest possible counter to the most brutal plots by the US and its supporters.”

North Korea said on Saturday that about 800,000 of its citizens have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the country’s armed forces to fight against the United States.

State newspaper It is reported by Rodong Sinmun. on Saturday that some 800,000 students and workers across the country on Friday alone expressed their desire to enlist or re-enlist in the military to oppose the United States.

In addition to joint military exercises and this week’s meeting between South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol and Japanese leader Fumio Kishida, experts say Pyongyang has expressed opposition to US President Joe Biden’s plan to host Yun and his wife at the White House next month. .

The state visit will be the second since Biden’s presidency, highlighting the close ties between the US and South Korea, and will take place on April 26. The conservative Yun and his administration have made strengthening the US-South Korea alliance a key foreign policy priority. Biden has also sought to develop the relationship, including through a symbolic marker of his trip to Seoul in May 2022, his first stop during his inaugural trip to Asia as president.

Leif-Erik Isley, a professor at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, recently told CNN that in response to the drills and summits, Pyongyang could “order longer-range missile launches, try to launch a spy satellite, demonstrate a solid propellant engine, and maybe even conduct a nuclear test.