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US flies bombers and stealth jets as Kim's sister threatens

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United States flew nuclear-capable bombers and advanced stealth jets in a show of force against North Korea on Tuesday, as the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scoffed at doubts about his country’s military and threatened a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile test.

The deployment of US B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets for joint exercises with South Korean warplanes was part of an agreement to protect South Korea with all available means, including nuclear weapons, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

The exercises, which also included F-35 and F-15 fighter jets from South Korea, took place in waters southwest of Jeju Island, the ministry said. US F-22 jets have been deployed to South Korea for the first time in four years and will remain there all week to train with South Korean forces, he said.

The drills came after North Korea claimed to have launched a test satellite for development of its first military spy satellite and tested a solid-fuel engine for use on a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile in recent days.

North Korea has already fired a record number of missiles this year as a warning about previous US-South Korean military drills it sees as a rehearsal for an invasion. It is feared that it will react to the latest air training from the allies with a new round of missile tests.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong used a host of derisive terms – such as “malicious bashing”, “garbage” and “dog barking” – when she dismissed outside assessments that cast doubt the development of the North Korean spy satellite and the long range missiles.

North Korea said its rocket launches on Sunday were testing systems for its first military reconnaissance satellite and released two low-resolution photos of South Korean cities seen from space. Some civilian experts in South Korea and elsewhere said the photos were too crude for surveillance purposes and that the launches were likely a cover for North Korean missile technology. The South Korean military claimed that North Korea fired two medium-range ballistic missiles.

Kim Yo Jong said the test satellite carried a commercial camera because there was no reason to use an expensive high-resolution camera for a one-shot test. She said North Korea used two old missiles as space launchers.

“Didn’t they think their assessments were too inadequate and reckless as they only commented on our satellite development capability and related preparations with two photos that we published in our newspaper,” Kim Yo said. Jong, a senior official from the ruling Workers’ Party, said in a statement to state media.

A spy satellite was among several high-tech weapons systems that Kim Jong Un pledged to acquire to better deal with what he called American hostility. Other weapons Kim wants to build are multi-warhead missiles, long-range solid-fuel missiles, underwater-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-powered submarines and hypersonic missiles. Some experts say North Korea will eventually use these modern weapons systems and an expanded nuclear arsenal to pressure the United States into securing sanctions relief and other concessions.

Kim’s sister rejected the South Korean government’s assessment that North Korea still needs to overcome key technological hurdles for ICBMs to work and reach the American mainland, such as the ability to shield its warheads from harsh weather conditions. atmospheric re-entry.

Kim Yo Jong wondered how North Korea could have received data from warheads until they landed in targeted areas of the ocean in previous launches if the country really lacked reintegration technology.

“I think it’s better for them to stop talking nonsense, behave carefully and think twice,” she said.

Whether North Korea has a reliable arsenal of nuclear missiles is a source of debate. But North Korea has repeatedly argued its tests of missiles capable of reaching the United States and its allies have confirmed that the warheads can survive atmospheric re-entry and other challenges.

All of North Korea’s ICBM tests were conducted at a steep angle to avoid neighboring countries. Some experts have said that without the standard trajectory launch of ICBMs, the reliability of North Korean weapons cannot be guaranteed.

Addressing these doubts, Kim Yo Jong suggested that North Korea could fire an ICBM on a normal trajectory, a launch that could be seen as a much bigger provocation for the United States as the weapon would fly towards the Pacific Ocean. .

“I can dispel their doubts about it. They will immediately recognize it in case we launch an ICBM in the form of a true-angle shot,” Kim Yo Jong said.

Kim, whose official title is deputy department director at the Workers’ Party Central Committee, is considered the most influential official in the North after her brother, according to South Korean spy services.

Lim Soosuk, spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry, called his threats of a standard-trajectory ICBM launch “very regrettable”. He told reporters that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions would only deepen its international isolation and compound the economic hardships of its residents.

North Korea is one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world due to its nuclear and missile programs. But Kim Yo Jong said Tuesday that North Korea was determined to strengthen its defenses at all costs.

“We make it clear that we will not remain a passive bystander to any attempt to violate the legitimate right of a sovereign state, but will exercise our compelling rights and take them back at the risk of our lives if necessary,” she said.