In an attempt to demonstrate that “the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” US Air Force B-1 bombers and F-15 jets flew close to North Korea’s East Coast on Saturday (Sept. 23).
Dana White, a spokesperson for the US Defense Department, said in a statement that this is “the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior.”
The “show of force” comes after escalating threats from North Korea regarding its nuclear program. “If [the United States] is forced to defend itself and its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Donald Trump said in a speech to the UN on Tuesday (Sept. 19).
Earlier this week, Trump broadened sanctions against North Korea in an executive order and tweeted that North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un was a “Madman.” Kim issued a statement saying that Trump would “pay dearly,” and North Korea foreign minister Ri Yong-ho later told reporters (paywall) that the country may conduct the “biggest ever hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific.”
As Trump and Kim exchanged insults, some worried the threats could backfire. “This kind of bluster and bombast that we hear from Donald Trump is not calculated,” presidential historian Robert Dallek told the Times,“and it is not how presidents have generally dealt with these threats.”
The White House seems to now be doubling down on the threat that Trump delivered at the UN. Per White’s statement: “We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
Meanwhile, in a speech at the UN general assembly on Saturday, North Korea foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said that Trump is “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” and would “pay” for his speech, according to CBS News. He also said North Korea’s nuclear weapons are intended to be a “war deterrent.”