U.S. F-22 stealth fighters fly low over S. Korea in show of force

Special to WorldTribune.com

In a show of force aimed squarely at North Korea, four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters flew low over South Korea on Feb. 17.

The F-22 Raptors flew alongside Korea’s F-15K Slam Eagle aircraft and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets in a joint exercise out of Osan Air Base.

Four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters fly over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Feb. 17. /AP
Four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters fly over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on Feb. 17. /AP

“The F-22 Raptor is the most capable air superiority fighter in the world, and it represents one of many capabilities available for the defense of this great nation,” Lt. Gen. Terrence O’Shaugnessy, deputy commander for U.S. forces in Korea, said at a joint news conference with South Korean military officials. “The U.S. maintains an ironclad commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea.”

South Korean Air Force Lt. Gen. Lee Wang-Keon said the allies “remain ready to deter North Korean threats and are postured to defeat them with the strength of our combined air combat capability.”

The allies’ show of force came 10 days after North Korea’s firing of a long-range rocket drew international condemnation. In January, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test.

“It has become clear that we cannot break North Korea’s will to develop nuclear weapons through existing means and goodwill,” South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said. “It’s time to find a fundamental solution for bringing practical change in North Korea and to show courage in putting that into action.”

In a Feb. 16 speech before South Korea’s National Assembly, Park warned Pyongyang could face “regime collapse” if it does not curtail its nuclear and missile programs.

Last week, Park ordered South Korean activities at the jointly-run Kaesong industrial facility in North Korea shut down. Pyongyang relies on Kaesong as a source of badly needed hard currency.