Two US bombers hold firing drills with South Korean forces

SEOUL (Reuters) - Two U.S. supersonic bombers conducted live-fire drills on Saturday in South Korea in a show of force following North Korea's test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the South's military said.

The pair of B-1B Lancer strategic bombers flew from a U.S. base on Guam and were joined by U.S. and South Korean jet fighters to conduct the simulated destruction of an enemy ballistic missile launcher and underground facilities, the South's air force said.

North Korea announced on Tuesday it successfully test-launched an ICBM, saying the missile was capable of carrying a large and heavy nuclear warhead.

9 PHOTOS
US bombers hold firing drills with South Korean forces
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US bombers hold firing drills with South Korean forces
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (Top) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers (R and top from L) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off on July 7, 2017 from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to conduct a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15 and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighter jets. The mission is in response to a series of increasingly escalatory action by North Korea, including a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jacob Skovo / XGTY == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / MANDATORY CREDIT: 'AFP PHOTO / US AIR FORCE / AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JACOB SKOVO' / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS / DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == (Photo credit should read JACOB SKOVO/AFP/Getty Images)
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (L) drops a bomb during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber (top) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, prepares for take off on July 7, 2017 from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to conduct a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15 and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighter jets. The mission is in response to a series of increasingly escalatory action by North Korea, including a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jacob Skovo / XGTY == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / MANDATORY CREDIT: 'AFP PHOTO / US AIR FORCE / AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JACOB SKOVO' / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS / DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == (Photo credit should read JACOB SKOVO/AFP/Getty Images)
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers (2nd from top and bottom from L) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
KOREAN PENINSULA, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 08: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers (L and 2nd from L) fly with South Korean jets over the Korean Peninsula during a South Korea-U.S. joint live fire drill on July 8, 2017 in Korean Peninsula, South Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
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Some experts believe the missile has the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii and the test signaled a significant advance in the North's declared intent to build a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the U.S. mainland.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the test indicated a quicker than expected pace of the North's ICBM program.

The B-1B bombers conducted the live-fire exercise at a range in South Korea's eastern Gangwon province, dropping weapons in a simulated attack on a missile launcher, the South Korean air force said in a statement.

South Korean and U.S. fighter jets conducted precision strike drills aimed at attacking enemy targets hidden underground, it said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the bombers then flew west, hugging the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) border between the two Koreas, before leaving South Korean airspace.

The drill follows a joint artillery and missile exercise by South Korean and U.S. forces a day after the North's ICBM test.

26 PHOTOS
Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
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Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 1. Activity continues at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 2. Possible new dumping observed at the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 3. Probable personnel in formation or equipment in rows at the Main Administrative Area. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 1. No vehicles or trailers remain around the North Portal but well-worn paths are observed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 2. No new dumping of material on the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 3. Small collection of crates or trailers seen in previous imagery has been removed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 3B. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area, similar to what was seen in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 2. Material dumped at the North Portal tailings pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 4, 2013. Figure 3A. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 1. Continued activity at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 25, 2017. Figure 1. Probable cabling and water drainage seen at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 6: Excavation continued underground in the North Portal area suggesting more tests to come in the same tunnel complex directly under Mt. Mantap. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 5th, 2017: Figure 7: The North Portal spoil pile continued to expand into 2017, becoming increasingly broader. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 22nd, 2017: Figure 8: Late January 2017 imagery showing new spoil on top of recent snow. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 9. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile as it appeared in late October 2016. The unstable spoil can sometimes lead to accidents, as in this case of toppled rail cars downslope. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12th, 2017: Figure 10. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile from February 2017 shows that accumulations had begun move westward with a broadening of the top and bottom west side of the pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 1. DigitalGlobe imagery showing large shipping container or crate seen at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 2. DigitalGlobe imagery showing no changes to pattern and texture of tailings (spoil) pile at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 3. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a small vehicle present at the West Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 4. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present in the southern courtyard of the Main Administrative Area. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 5. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present at the sites Command Center. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 6. DigitalGlobe imagery showing snow cleared at guard barrack and security checkpoint. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 2. No activity seen at the Sohae launch pad. Date: October 24, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 3. Environmental shed remains adjacent to the vertical engine test stand. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 29, 2016: Figure 1C. Increased activity around the North Portal throughout October. Date: October 29, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
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TRUMP WARNING

Despite the sabre-rattling, the United States and South Korea have said they are committed to resolving the crisis over the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile peacefully.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday in Hamburg, where the leaders of G20 nations are meeting, there would not be many good options left on North Korea if the peaceful pressure campaign failed.

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed on Thursday to confront the North "very strongly" and said Washington was considering "severe things" for the isolated state following the ICBM test.

The United States, Japan and South Korea agreed on Friday to push for a quick U.N. Security Council resolution to put new sanctions on North Korea.

On the sidelines of the G20 summit, Trump, Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to apply "maximum pressure" to counter the North nuclear threat.

North Korea has hailed the ICBM test as marking the completion of is strategic weapons capability that it says includes atomic and hydrogen bombs.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a mausoleum honouring state founder Kim Il Sun on Saturday, the anniversary of his grandfather's death, the North's official KCNA news agency reported.

He was joined by military officials who contributed to the success of the ICBM test, the news agency said.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

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