The US has sent a nuclear-capable stealth bomber on a long-range mission buzzing the skies over the Pacific as President Donald Trump is set to make a key Asia visit. The US Air Force said the mission was meant to assert Washington's "visible commitment" to its allies in the region.
Trump will tour South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines during his crucial visit, which will begin later this week, amid increasing threats emerging from the reclusive regime of North Korea. The B-2 stealth bomber is capable of single-handedly wiping out a small city. It made the flight over the weekend and is bound to infuriate Pyongyang.
The bomber's flight was to "familiarise aircrew with air bases and operations in different geographic combatant commands, enabling them to maintain a high state of readiness and proficiency," said the US military command in a statement.
The B-2, with a range of just over 11,000kms, has the unique ability to combine large payload, long range and stealth capabilities into a single platform, making it one of the most lethal aircraft in the US Air Force. The aircraft, which can be refuelled mid-air, is capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear bombs.
After taking off from the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, it is still unclear where exactly the B-2 Spirit made its sortie as the path was not revealed by the military. But, it will be no surprise if it cruised over the skies of the Korean peninsula as the situation remains tense in the region.
"These missions validate our always-ready global strike capability and are a visible demonstration of commitment to our allies and enhancing regional security," added the brief statement released by the US Strategic Command.
The bomber's mission was carried out just as when the US Defense Secretary James Mattis was wrapping up South Korea visit. In his emphatic address, Mattis repeated the US would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.
"North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbours and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs," said Mattis. "I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power."