JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Oahu — The United States sent its most powerful airplanes to the Korean peninsula in recent weeks in part because it wants North Korea to know what the American military is capable of doing, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Pacific said.
B-2 stealth bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers have recently all flown to South Korea for exercises or short deployments in what amounted to a dramatic display of U.S. air power. The stealth planes are capable of sneaking past radar undetected. B-2 and B-52 bombers are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
“Every morning that a potential adversary gets up and goes, ‘You know what, I’m not going to mess with America today’ — that’s a good morning,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle said Tuesday in an interview at his headquarters in Hawaii. “We need all those mornings to keep coming.”
The U.S. is hoping a missile defense system it’s sending to Guam, a U.S. territory and strategically important military outpost 1,500 miles south of Tokyo, will also have a deterrent effect, he said.
If “they know we got something that can knock down their missiles — it may stop them from shooting them,” Carlisle said.
The U.S. has also explained it’s reassuring its allies by showing it’s prepared to defend them.
The missile defense system — called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense — is designed to intercept missiles during their final stage of flight. It joins other technology the military has to intercept missiles.
Carlisle said the U.S. also is considering sending high-altitude surveillance planes from Guam to Japan during the tropical island’s summer storm season. Often, typhoons and thunderstorms around Guam ground the Global Hawk drones from April through November. The planes would be less likely to face weather problems if they were flying out of a place like Misawa Air Base in Japan, Carlisle said.
The U.S. uses the drones to monitor North Korea and could do so from Japan as well, Carlisle said.
“They could do all the missions that they do now if they were flying out of Japanese bases,” he said.
Tokyo is also considering buying some of the drones for its own use, Carlisle said.
“We’re still working it with the Japanese government. I don’t know whether we’ll do it this year or not. It does cost money to do that, again that’s another factor. We’re still examining it and looking at how to make it happen. When we do it is another question,” he said.