North Korea may be rapidly advancing its nuclear weapons program, but U.S. armed forces have already made preparations to deal with the new threat.
Two U.S. B-1B bombers, joined by aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force, engaged in a 10-hour mission over South Korea on Monday.
The joint military exercise in the Pacific region came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued threats against the U.S. over the weekend.
The bombers took off from Guam, which North Korea threatened to strike with missiles on Tuesday after President Trump warned he would meet it with "fire and fury" if the country does not stop its provocations.
"How we train is how we fight and the more we interface with our allies, the better prepared we are to fight tonight," said one of the bomber pilots in a statement on Tuesday.
"The B-1 is a long-range bomber that is well-suited for the maritime domain and we can meet the unique challenges from the Pacific."
U.S. forces in Guam and South Korea are on the front line against North Korea, which is seemingly more dangerous after the Washington Post reported Tuesday that it has the capability to mount miniaturized nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.
These warheads could theoretically be mounted on North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), one of which may be capable of hitting the U.S.
"I think we have to start with the reality that North Korea long ago decided that it wanted to acquire the ability to hit the United States with nuclear weapons and miniaturization is one piece of the puzzle that they had to solve," Richard Bush, co-director of the Brooking Institution's Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Circa in an interview. "Creating the delivery system was another, creating the nuclear weapon was another."
Bush noted that North Korea has yet to develop a method to get a warhead through the atmosphere, a required step in attacking an adversary, though he noted they are one move closer than they once were.
"This is something that they were going to do, and it gets them a little bit closer to their goal," he said.
Besides a display of strength from bomber aircraft, U.S. forces also have a new air defense system capable of knocking North Korea's missiles out of the sky.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) platform is a state-of-the-art system which was deployed in Guam in 2013 and is currently being implemented in South Korea as of late July.
Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, told residents of Guam that they can rest easy knowing that THAAD is there to protect them should the worst situation occur.
"My sincere hope is that the testing that we've done to demonstrate that capability will provide confidence to the residents of Guam, that they are protected from an IRBM [intermediate range ballistic missile] shot coming their way from the threat," said Greaves, while speaking at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium on Tuesday.
Guam Governor Eddie Calvo (R) reassured his citizens that there are "several levels of defense" that are "strategically placed" to defend the small Pacific island.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also weighed in, reassuring the American people that they can "sleep well at night" despite the recent North Korean threats.
While officials are confident in America's ability to defend itself, the men and women of its armed forces plan to continue their vigilance.
"We have to train to be ready any time," an Air Force spokesman from the 28th Bomb Wing told Circa in an interview.