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US-RoK fighters signal displeasure at North Korean missile launches

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs of the Republic of Korea Air Force prepare to participate in a joint flight with USAF fighters on 7 June 2022, in response to ballistic missile launches by North Korea. (South Korea Ministry of National Defense)

A series of North Korean ballistic missile launches has prompted a show of force by South Korean and United States fighter aircraft.

According to the information made public by South Korea's Ministry of National Defense (MND), 16 F-35A, F-15K, and KF-16 fighters from the Republic of Korea (RoK) Air Force joined four F-16 fighters from the US Air Force (USAF) to conduct a joint air demonstration against North Korea.

The flights, which were conducted on 7 June, coincided with a visit by the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Seoul.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff linked the joint air flight to what it describes as “North Korea's continuous ballistic missile provocations”.

The flights were staged two days after Pyongyang launched eight short-range ballistic missiles on 5 June. North Korea has been intensifying its missile testing. The country has conducted 18 rounds of missile tests this year. South Korean officials have said that this could potentially culminate in a nuclear weapons test, which could further escalate tensions in the region.

In a comment to Janes , Commander Tiffani Walker, a US Indo-Pacific Command spokesperson, said that the joint flight was conducted over the Yellow Sea.

“The bilateral flights demonstrated our ability to quickly respond with high levels of force-readiness to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US commitment to the defence of the RoK and Japan remains ironclad,” she said.

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