US flies bombers over S. Korea in show of force against North

North Korea's universally condemned fifth nuclear test is raising concerns the country could conduct at least another test before the end of 2016.

North Korea is rapidly becoming a nuclear power that could mount a miniaturized nuclear bomb atop an intercontinental ballistic missile within the next four years, the private intelligence firm Soufan Group said in a report on Tuesday.

However, as is the case whenever Pyongyang lashes out, a coordinated global response to the tests will be hamstringed by China's unwillingness to withdraw economic support and risk regime collapse on its border.

In his statement, the United States general also mentioned the deployment to South Korea of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which is created to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles, just the type of weapons North Korea claims it has. And given the track record of the former, it might just be deterrence that wins out.

The U.S. response to this situation was the deployment of two supersonic bombers #B-1B that took off from the USA base at Guam and were then escorted by two Japan Air Self Defense Force aircraft before a "hand-off" to South Korean jets. Such flyovers are fairly common when animosity rises on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang's claim to have used "standardized" warheads in the detonation makes some outsiders worry that it is making headway in its push to develop small, sophisticated warheads that can be mounted on missiles that can reach the USA mainland.

" 'Left unchecked, Pyongyang will likely develop the capability to reach the continental United States with a nuclear tipped missile in a decade or so, ' [Hecker] wrote on the North Korea-focused website 38 North".

He said more troubling was that the recent test successes might give Pyongyang a false sense of confidence.

Six-nation diplomatic talks aimed at ridding the North of its bombs have been stalled since the last round of meetings in late 2008. Ministry officials refused to say what specific evidence pointed to another possible nuclear test.

The US special envoy on North Korea, said while Washington was open to dialogue they would seek a new United Nations resolution on sanctions for Pyongyang.

South Korea has said it has a plan to annihilate the North Korean capital if it shows any signs of mounting a nuclear attack.

KPMR outlines a preemptive strike on high-profile North Korean leaders, including Kim Jong-Un, in the event of either a war or the use of nuclear weapons is determined to be an imminent threat.

  • Jon Douglas