The U.S. sent supersonic bombers to Korea in a show of force Tuesday against the North, according to South Korean officials.
The flights come one day after Otto Warmbier, an American college student held by North Korea for 17 months, died in US after being released last week. It is unclear exactly what caused his condition, but Warmbier's parents claim that he was "brutalized" by the reclusive North Korean regime.
Warmbier had been detained in North Korea for allegedly attempting to steal a political poster.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said the bombers engaged in routine exercises with South Korean fighter jets aimed at showing deterrence against North Korea.
The U.S. maintains a continuous bomber presence in the region and often dispatches heavy bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in response to North Korean provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
US and South Korean warplanes regularly conduct drills, but Tuesday's flights came shortly after the death of a USA college student who was recently released by North Korea in a coma following more than 17 months of captivity. It said the flights demonstrated solidarity among South Korea, Japan and the United States "to defend against provocative and destabilizing actions in the Pacific theater".
Otto Warmbier, 22, who was arrested in North Korea while visiting as a tourist, had been described by doctors caring for him last week as having extensive brain damage that left him in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness". It is unclear if Tuesday's flyby was connected to Warmbier's tragic passing.