|North Korean KN-06 Surface-to-Air Missile System|
By: Mike Yeo
MELBOURNE, Australia — At a news conference in New York on Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister accused U.S. President Donald Trump of declaring war via Twitter, and the minister threatened to shoot down U.S. Air Force bombers conducting flights near the Korean Peninsula.
Ri Yong Ho told reporters that his country “reserves the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.” His comments come in the wake of a war of words between both countries over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program.
The conference came after a Sept. 23 flight over international waters “east of North Korea” by U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers, escorted by F-15C jets, that U.S. Pacific Command said was the “farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.”
According to South Korean media citing sources from the country’s intelligence services, the route of the B-1Bs took them approximately 90 miles from the North Korean port city of Sinpo and the Punggye-ri nuclear test site at its closest point but beyond the range of known long-range, ground-based air defense systems. The bombers’ flight path was also well beyond the North’s self-declared, 50-mile military boundary zone, which is not recognized by the United States.
At these distances, it would be a significant challenge for the North to effectively target any U.S. overflights. Like much of its conventional forces, North Korea’s air defense network is large in quantity but of questionable quality due to obsolescence, as the country is barred from importing military capabilities due to a United Nations arms embargo.
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