The United States will dispatch three B-2 bombers to Guam amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, told the Air Force Times on Monday.
“We are in the process right now of deploying three B-2s on a scheduled rotation to Andersen Air Base in Guam. We continue to have airmen stationed on the Korean Peninsula who are there full time who are ready for whatever might happen, and they are ready everyday,” Welsh said.
In 2013, B-2 bombers entered North Korean airspace in a show of force to deter Pyongyang. Such as display appears unlikely this time, as Seoul and Pyongyang have reached an interim agreement to defuse the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
“The United State welcomes the agreement reached between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK earlier today. We support President Park’s tireless efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, which support peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a regular briefing yesterday.
In the agreement, Pyongyang offered “regrets” over the August 4 incident, in which two South Korean soldiers were severely injured by a landmine explosion and for which the Kim Jong-un regime has been held responsible by the South. Seoul in turn agreed to turn off loudspeakers that were broadcasting propaganda into the North (See: “Confirmed: North and South Korea Reach Agreement to Deescalate Tensions”).
However, a senior defense official told the Washington Free Beacon that it is “too soon to tell” whether the new agreement will succeed in reducing tensions. “On a macro level, [the bombers] are certainly directed at sending a message to North Korea,” he said.
The three B-2 bombers and around 225 airmen from Whiteman Air Force in Missouri already began deploying to the region on August 7, the Air Force announced last week. According to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Makros, the 13th Bomb Squadron commander, the bombers can strike, “at the time and place of leadership’s choosing, any target set on the globe with precision, range, stealth and a massive payload, conventional or nuclear.”
“South Korea and the United States now continue to closely watch the Korean Peninsula’s crisis situation, and are flexibly reviewing the timing of the deployment of U.S. strategic military assets,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok recently told reporter, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“I think there’s a lot of worrisome things about Korea, but I don’t think any of it’s new news,” Welsh told reporters during a news conference. “Certainly they have a missile that can reach Hawaii or U.S. facilities in the Pacific, so that’s what we’re most worried about,” the Air Force Chief of Staff added. “I think it’s something we have to pay a lot of attention to and we do every single day.”