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B-2 bombers not intended to provoke North Korea, says Hagel

The unprecedented U.S. decision to send nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers to drop dummy munitions during military drills with South Korea this week was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke a reaction from North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

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A U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber flies near Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea, March 28.

Shin Young-keun / Yonhap / AP

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The unprecedented U.S. decision to send nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers to drop dummy munitions during military drills with South Korea this week was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke a reaction from North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

Hagel acknowledged, however, that North Korea's belligerent tones and actions in recent weeks have increased the danger in the region, "and we have to understand that reality."

North Korea's leader said Thursday his rocket forces are ready "to settle accounts with the U.S." in response to the B-2 bombers. State media said Kim Jong Un ordered rockets on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.

Speaking to reporters earlier, both Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the B-2 bombers were a message intended more for allies than Pyongyang.

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