Tensions continue to escalate on the Korean peninsula after the U.S. flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over South Korea, while North Korea insists it is cutting off all lines of communications across its southern border after what it calls "reckless acts of the enemies."
Two B-2 stealth bombers flew more than 6,500 miles from Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri to South Korea on Thursday as a part of a training mission, designed to demonstrate "extended deterrence" for American allies in the western Pacific, the BBC reports. These missions allow the B-2s to conduct "long range, precision strikes quickly and at will," according to a Defense release.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin Thursday night to talk about the "unwavering United States' commitment" to South Korea "during this time of heightened tension."
"The secretary highlighted the steadfast U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea," said Pentagon spokesman George Little, "including extended deterrence capabilities, and pointed to the recently signed ROK-U.S. counter-provocation plan as a mechanism to enhance consultation and coordination of alliance responses to North Korean aggression."
Roughly 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. The Pentagon announced earlier in March it also plans to deploy 14 new ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska as a deterrent to North Korean threats.
The North Korean state news agency reported Wednesday that its border delegation sent a telephone message to its South Korean counterparts assuring them there would be "no need to keep north-south communications."
"War and confrontation can never go together with dialogue and reconciliation under any circumstances," the delegation said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "This step will be thoroughly implemented as long as the south side's anachronistic hostile acts against the DPRK go on."
"Due to the reckless acts of the enemies, the north-south military communications which were set up for dialogue and cooperation between the north and the south has already lost its significance," it added.
One of the main purposes of this phone connection includes coordination South Korean workers who commute to the Kaesong Industrial Region in North Korea—one of the last symbols of cooperation between the two countries.
More than 160 people crossed the border Thursday morning for work, the BBC reports.
Earlier this month, North Korean officials told the operators of Chinese tour groups that there would be no war on the Korean peninsula and encouraged China to "send as many tourists as possible," reports South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper.