The US doubled down on provocative bomber flights near the border with North Korea this week, at the same time as Pyongyang asked when, not if, war would break out.
On Wednesday, a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber flew from Guam to carry out simulated bomb runs against North Korean targets at a test range in South Korea.
And on Thursday, two B-1s joined Vigilant Ace, a massive US and South Korea aerial exercise involving 230 aircraft, 12,000 personnel, and the US’s top stealth jets.
The US has previously conducted B-1 flights in response to North Korean provocations like missile tests; North Korea has typically responded with vitriol.
For example, after a B-1 flew across North Korea’s maritime border in response to intercontinental ballistic missile testing in September, North Korea threatened to shoot down subsequent flights.
But usually the B-1 flights happen on a nearly one-for-one basis. The back-to-back flights, the inclusion of stealth aircraft, and the massive scope of this week’s exercise all point to a marked escalation in tensions just a week after North Korea conducted a surprise test of a missile experts say could reach any US city.
Read more: businessinsider