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(2nd LD) U.S. to fly F-22s over Korea this week: official

2016/02/16 15:01

(ATTN: ADDS comments on THAAD in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- The United States will send four F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea in yet another show of force against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, officials here said Tuesday.

"The U.S. military plans to deploy four F-22s to the Korean Peninsula tomorrow (Wednesday)," a defense official said, requesting anonymity.

It is apparently a provisional deployment aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang, although the original base of the warplanes and how long they will stay in Korea were not immediately confirmed.

The F-22 Raptor is a core U.S. strategic weapon. The Pentagon dispatched a B-25 bomber to Korea shortly after the North's nuclear test last month.

Recently, the USS North Carolina attack submarine arrived in South Korea for joint training.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is also scheduled to join the annual South Korea-U.S. defense drills slated to open in March.

"With the deployment of the strategic weapons, the U.S. is sending a strong warning message to North Korea and demonstrating its commitment to the defense of South Korea," another official said.

The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, reiterated that it would give priority to "military effectiveness" in choosing a site for the stationing of the U.S. THAAD missile defense battery.

The allies are in consultations over the matter despite fierce backlash from China and Russia.

"You can understand that military effectiveness is about defending South Korea," ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press briefing.

"The deployment of THAAD by the U.S. Forces Korea is in accordance with the South Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty," he added. "We will take steps on all (relevant) issues from the perspective of the efficacy of the South Korea-U.S. alliance."

   lcd@yna.co.kr

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