SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea unveiled some of its first US-acquired F-35 stealth fighters for the first time during the Armed Forces Day ceremony on Tuesday, a development likely to anger its rival. North Korea.
Under its largest arms purchase ever, South Korea is expected to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters by 2021. The first batches of the aircraft arrived south this year. North Korea has reacted strongly to the deliveries, calling them a serious provocation that violates recent inter-Korean agreements aimed at easing military tensions.
On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in revised military aircraft, including an F-35, missiles and artillery systems that were displayed on the ground at the beginning of the ceremony at an air base in southeastern South Korea.
Moon and other high-ranking officers later watched three F-35s and other warplanes flying in close formation one after the other.
In a televised speech at the ceremony, Moon said he felt "confident about the power of our military armed with new equipment, such as the F-35As we first released." He said South Koreans would also be "very proud" of military capability.
South Korea previously published photos of its F-35s, but it was the first time the aircraft had been exhibited at an official event since the first two aircraft were delivered here in March, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. .
Moon, a liberal advocating greater reconciliation with North Korea, was behind a flood of North Korea. diplomacy in the northern nuclear program. During their third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang last September, the two Koreas signed a set of agreements aimed at alleviating military animosities, such as halting front-line shooting exercises at the front and dismantle guard posts along its border.
Many South Korean conservatives say the deals have greatly undermined South Korea's national security because North Korea's nuclear threats remain intact.
Moon said during Tuesday's ceremony that strong national security would support dialogue and cooperation with North Korea and an effort to build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Nuclear diplomacy has been largely stalled since the collapse of the second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February due to disputes over US-led sanctions against North Korea. Kim and Trump held a brief, impromptu meeting on the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume diplomacy.
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