Analysis

North Korea: Potential for Conflict Rises After Stealth Bomber Flights
A US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber flies over Pasadena, California on January 1, 2013. Yesterday, two B-2s conducted a practice bombing run over South Korea and dropped dummy bombs about 50 miles from the North Korean border. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
March 29, 2013
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
Summary
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SITUATION REPORT
 
North Korean threats made after two U.S. B-2 stealth bombers flew over South Korea yesterday have raised tensions to a dangerously high level. North Korea placed its rocket units on standby to fire on American bases in South Korea and the Pacific after the B-2 flights.  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded by saying it is time "to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists."
 
While the B-2 bomber flights were a demonstration of U.S. military power and an attempt to stand up to North Korea’s recent threats, LIGNET believes these flights probably were a mistake and increased the potential for military conflict.
 
While North Korean officials could be ramping up their rhetoric to score points at home and to press for a resumption of multilateral talks and aid, this upsurge in rhetoric is looking similar to 2010 when North Korea shelled a small South Korean island and torpedoed a South Korean naval ship. The difference this time is that unlike three years ago, the South Korean military is likely to respond to such provocations, which could spur a full-scale war.
The B-2 bombers flew more than 6,500 miles from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and flew over South Korea. The B-2s dropped dummy munitions about 50 miles from the North Korean border before flying back to the United States. This is the first mission of its kind for the stealth bombers and was intended to demonstrate the ability of the United States to conduct long-range, precision strikes “quickly and at will,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. military command in South Korea. 
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