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US bombers fly close to North Korea in show of force

Pentagon says the flight was aimed at demonstrating Washington's military options available to 'defeat any threat'.


US bombers escorted by fighter jets have flown close to North Korea's east coast, according to US officials, in a display of military strength after an escalating war of words between the two countries.

The Pentagon said Saturday's flight was the farthest north of the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea that any US fighter jet or bomber has flown this century.

The operation over international waters showed the seriousness with which Washington took North Korea's "reckless behaviour", it said.

READ MORE: Russia tells US, North Korea 'hot heads' to calm down

"This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat," said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, calling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme "a grave threat".

"We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies."

Bellicose rhetoric

The B-1B Lancer bombers took off from Guam and the US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts came from Okinawa, Japan.

The flight came after days of heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, with US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un trading insults.

Trump called Kim a "madman" on Friday, a day after the North Korean leader dubbed him a "mentally deranged US dotard" in retaliation for the US president saying Washington would "totally destroy" the Asian country if it threatened the US or its allies.

Speaking from Washington, DC, Scott Synder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Washington's latest move was aimed at putting further pressure on Pyongyang.

"The growing intensity of activity is designed to send a message to Kim Jong-un that the US wants North Korea to turn in a different direction and that the US has the power to retaliate against him if he persists," he said.

"It is not clear Kim Jong-un is receiving that message."

INFOGRAPHIC: North Korea - All you need to know explained in graphics

North Korea, a country of 26 million people, says it needs a strong nuclear deterrent to protect it from the US, and its government has made militarism a central part of its national ideology.

Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3 and has launched dozens of missiles this year, and has threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Earlier on Saturday, officials and experts said a small earthquake near North Korea's nuclear test site was probably not man-made, easing fears Pyongyang had exploded another nuclear bomb just weeks after its last one.

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