Some powerful US bombers and fighter escorts flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force.
The power show is against North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and intransigence, but the action is escalating already sky-high tensions in the region.
The hermit state’s foreign minister meanwhile derided Donald Trump as “mentally deranged” at the United Nations, while the US president fired back on Twitter with fresh threats.
The latest exchange of bellicose rhetoric comes as international alarm mounts over Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions — including a suggestion this week that the country is considering detonating an H-bomb over the Pacific.
US bombers have carried out similar flights before, as the United States and the international community struggle to rein in North Korea’s weapons programmes.
But in a new stage for such show-of-force operations, the Pentagon stressed this was the furthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that any US fighter or bomber has flown off North Korea’s coast in this century.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
The Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flown Saturday are based in Guam, and were accompanied by F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, White said. They flew over international waters off the east coast of North Korea.
There was another reason for concern after an underground rumble near North Korea’s nuclear test site. China at first said it suspected an explosion.
But it was later ruled by a nuclear test ban watchdog and other experts to be a shallow 3.5-magnitude earthquake and likely an aftershock from the hermit state’s latest nuclear test on September 3.