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U.S. flies bombers over Korean peninsula with South Korean, Japanese fighter jets
13 October 2017, 12:09 | Austin Hogan
GETTYMap of which countries have nuclear wepaons
On the same day as Trump's meeting with military leaders, the U.S. Air Force flew two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force, after North Korea had threatened to shoot down U.S. bombers conducting such tests.
South Korean analysts say the nighttime flights, and also the decisions by Washington and Seoul to release the itinerary of the warplanes, are aimed at sending a clear warning to North Korea and demonstrating capability for surprise attacks.
North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth and biggest nuclear test in recent weeks in defiance of U.N. sanctions as it races towards its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.
South Korean and USA government officials have been raising their guard against more North Korean provocations with the approach of the 72nd anniversary of the founding of North Korea's ruling party, which fell on Tuesday.
The B-1Bs also conducted exercises with Japan's Air Self-Defense Force in what the USA statement called a "sequenced bilateral mission".
Rhee Cheol-Hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic party, said the hackers had broken into the South's military network last September and gained access to 235 gigabytes of sensitive data, the Chosun Ilbo daily reported.
The Pentagon also declined to comment specifically on reports of the potential breach, but spokesman Col. Robert Manning said on Tuesday that the United States is "confident in the security of our operations plans and our ability to deal with any threat from North Korea".
The US military said in a separate statement Japanese fighters had also joined the drill, making it the first night-time combined exercise for the US bombers with fighters from Japan and South Korea.
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Australia's foreign and defense ministers visited the heavily fortified inter-Korean border Thursday and emphasized the need to inflict "maximum diplomatic pressure" to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambition.
The Defense Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defense Integrated Data Center in September a year ago, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised.
Last week, the North Korea propaganda web site Meari indicated operations have resumed at the Kaesong facility, and another propaganda web site, Uriminzokkiri posted a comment saying, "It is nobody's business what we do in an industrial complex where our nation's sovereignty is exercised".
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have intensified in recent months as the Trump administration has struggled to rein in Kim Jong-un's expanding nuclear and ballistic weapons programme. China's influential Global Times tabloid expressed alarm at how far the rhetoric on both sides had gone and how it had increased the risk of a "fatal misjudgment".
And while there are many in Washington who are willing to explore the possibility of talks, it is less clear whether President Donald Trump will personally be in favor of a former USA leader taking the spotlight.
The secretive state has been suspected of carrying out cyber attacks on South Korean electric utilities as well as on other government and financial institutions.
On Tuesday, President Trump met with his national security team and top military leaders to discuss military options against North Korea.
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