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US military in South Korea on ‘highest alert’

The United States has reportedly put its military forces in South Korea on the highest level of alert over the recent escalation on the Korean peninsula.

The commander of combined US forces, Curtis Scaparrotti, made the order during a visit to the Osan Air Base which is operated jointly by the US and South Korea, a United States Forces Korea (USFK) official said.

The move is meant to counter “any provocation coming from North Korea” following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test on Wednesday, US media quoted the unnamed official as saying on Monday.

Washington and Seoul are already in talks to send further strategic assets to the Korean peninsula, a day after a US B-52 bomber flew over the South in a show of military force.

This picture taken by the Republic of Korea Air Force on January 10, 2016 and released via Yonhap news agency shows a US B-52 Stratofortress (bottom R) flying with South Korean F-15K fighter jets (top) and US F-16 fighter jets (bottom L) over South Korea. (AFP)

“The United States and South Korea are continuously and closely having discussions on additional deployment of strategic assets,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman at the South Korean Defense Ministry, declining to give specifics.

South Korean media said strategic assets Washington may utilize in Korea included B-2 bombers, nuclear-powered submarines and F-22 stealth fighter jets.

Seoul also said on Monday that it would restrict access to the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex just north of the heavily militarized inter-Korean border to the “minimum necessary level” starting from Tuesday.

North Korea says it exploded a hydrogen bomb last Wednesday, although the United States and other critics doubt this.

Now Press TV’s correspondent in Japan Albert Siegel says the planned deployment of further strategic assets by the United States in Korea amounts to flexing military muscles in the region.

Siegel said this does not “seem to change anything at the moment because these sorts of tit-for-tat show of forces have been going on for a long time now.”

“But the US is taking it very seriously.”

The United States has more than 28,000 troops deployed in South Korea which has remained technically at war with its northern neighbor since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

South Korea has also resumed anti-North propaganda broadcasts using loudspeakers along the border, a tactic that the North considers insulting and resulted in an armed standoff that included an exchange of artillery fire the last time South Korea used the speakers in August.

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