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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. hold combined air drills, involving B-1B bombers, F-22, F-35 stealth fighters: defense ministry

01:05 February 02, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5-7; RECASTS 8th para)

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States staged combined air drills, involving B-1B strategic bombers and F-22 and F-35B stealth fighters from the U.S. Air Force, in a show of Washington's "will and capabilities" against North Korean threats, Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday.

The allies conducted the drills over the Yellow Sea -- the first of their kind this year -- on Wednesday. The drills also involved F-35A fighter jets from the South.

"The combined air drills this time show the U.S.' will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," the ministry said in a press release.

Extended deterrence means the U.S.' commitment to use a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally.

The defense ministry noted that the drills were in line with an agreement from the two countries' summit last year to deploy U.S. strategic assets in a "timely and coordinated" manner, and that the drills reflected their "firm" determination for national security as an "alliance that acts."

"Going forward, the two countries will enhance our citizens' confidence in the U.S.' extended deterrence by strengthening combined drills in connection with the deployment of the U.S.' strategic assets," it said.

The latest drills came as some in South Korea raised doubts over the credibility of Washington's extended deterrence amid Pyongyang's persistent push to develop a nuclear-tipped long-range missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

In Seoul on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said there would be more deployments of such advanced military assets involving F-22 and F-35 jets to ensure the U.S.' security commitment.

South Korean and U.S. Air Force aircraft engage in joint air drills over the Yellow Sea on Feb. 1, 2023 in this photo provided by Seoul's defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)



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