The U.S. military has sent a B-52 bomber on a low-level flight over South Korea as a show of force in response to North Korea's latest nuclear test.
The nuclear-capable bomber took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and later was joined by F-16 and F-15 fighter jets in what U.S. officials said was meant to demonstrate the strength of the U.S. alliance with South Korea.
"This was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan and to the defense of the American homeland," Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in a statement Sunday announcing the B-52 flight near Osan, South Korea.
"North Korea's nuclear test is a blatant violation of its international obligations," Harris said.
Pyongyang claimed Wednesday that it had tested a hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear device far more powerful than the three atomic bombs the North Korean capital has tested in the past.
If true, the device would mark a significant advance in North Korea's weapons development and its potential threat to the region. The underground test was detected by earthquake monitors and other sensors around the world.
The White House and Western nuclear weapons experts said initial seismic and other data did not support North Korea's claim, however, because the underground blast appeared similar in size to the three previous nuclear tests.
The United States and other global powers condemned North Korea for testing another bomb, and the United Nations Security Council met in emergency session to consider increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.
Previous U.N. sanctions have not persuaded the government of Kim Jong Un to rein in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs.
The nuclear test raised tensions in north Asia. South Korea has resumed cross-border propaganda broadcasts, which the North Korean government considers an act of war.
An analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey fixed the coordinates of the bomb test in northeastern North Korea, an isolated and heavily forested area about 6,000 feet in elevation. The blast registered around 5.1 in magnitude on seismographs.
The U.S. military is trying to confirm the size of the detonation, the type of fuel used and the sophistication of the bomb design. The analysis, which includes sampling air for telltale radioactive isotopes, is expected to take weeks.
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