(News Focus) U.S. nuclear bomber deployment crushing pressure on recalcitrant N. Korea
SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- The deployment of U.S. nuclear-armed bombers and submarines in South Korea is a powerful option the allies have in maximizing military pressure on North Korea as the two Koreas entered into the worst state of military tension in more than two years.
"South Korea and the United States are flexibly reviewing the timing of the deployment of U.S. strategic assets with close tabs kept on the crisis situation on the Korean Peninsula," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said earlier.
Sources say the U.S.' long-range bomber fitted with bunker-busting bombs, B-52, or a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber could be one of options for the deployment, along with a nuclear-powered submarine.
Being part of the nuclear umbrella the U.S. provides to the South, the B-52 bomber is much feared by North Korea for its powerful capacity to carry up to 27 tons of bombs for a long-distance standalone attack mission.
With the length of 48 meters on the weight of 221.35 tons, the bomber could cruise as far as 16,000 kilometers at one flight and soar as high as 55,000 feet.
Air-to-surface nuclear armed-missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers as well as other cruise missiles are also loadable onto the strategic bomber.
The B-2 stealth bomber could carry more than a dozen nuclear bombs as well as dozens of air-to-surface and other guided missiles.
Deployment of the bombers and other strategic U.S. military assets has been a powerful deterrence method to keep a recalcitrant North Korea at bay when inter-Korean military tension escalated in the past.
The U.S. dispatched a fleet of USS George Washington aircraft carrier, Joint STARS ground surveillance aircraft, Super Hornet multirole fighter aircraft as well as Hornet fighter jet to South Korea in 2010 in a major show of force against North Korea after the country launched a shell attack on the South Korean frontline island of Yeonpyeong.
As North Korea increased war threats following its third nuclear detonation test in February 2013, the U.S. deployed both of the bombers along with F-22 stealth fighter jets and the nuclear-powered USS Cheyenne submarine to join a joint exercise in South Korea.
Those deployments had prompted North Korea to react with panicky threats of military action against the U.S.
Experts say the North fears the local appearance of the nuclear-armed bombers and vessels as a direct nuclear threat that could deal a destructing blow to the North Korean regime.
With the potential deployment of the U.S. bomber, the current military crisis could enter into a new phase, the experts noted, as it will dramatically amp up military pressure on the North.
Over the weekend, the South and the U.S. jointly flew eight fighter jets through South Korean airspace in a simulation of enemy target bombing, the allies' latest show of force against North Korea.
Military tensions are still growing across the border after the two Koreas had a rare exchange of live-fire on Aug. 20 over South Korea's border-area propaganda broadcasts critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his political system.
Ending an 11-year suspension, Seoul restarted the psychological warfare tactic at the frontline in retaliation of North Korea's detonation of landmines in the South Korean part of the demilitarized zone that separates the countries on Aug. 4. Two South Korean soldiers were seriously wounded in the mine blast for which Seoul blamed Pyongyang.
As the countries were thwarted to the brink of a military confrontation, the two Koreas launched rare high-level government talks Saturday to defuse the situation, with no major progress having been reported so far.
Source said, the allies may have yet to make a final decision on the deployment option because of the possibility of a political solution from the dialogue.
"Both South Korea and the U.S. are keeping their powerful war readiness posture so as to fend off any North Korean provocations while maintaining close cooperation for harsh retaliation in case of a provocation," Kim Min-seok said.
US B-52 Stratofortress bomber (file photo)