S. Korea wary of agitating N. Korea with deployment of stealth fighter jets

Eric Atler, July 29, 2019, 9:37 a.m.


South Korea is wary of agitating an already jumpy North Korea with a deployment ceremony for its new F-35A stealth fighter jets. The North cited the planned deployment of the stealth fighters as an excuse for its latest missile launches.

The event has already been delayed until October although the jets have been sitting in hangars here for months.

"The original plan was to hold a ceremony to deploy the F-35As warfare-ready on Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the Air Force," a military officer said. "But whether we can hold it is unclear in the current circumstances."

The military only took delivery of the jets in March in a low-key event and at one time wanted to put them into service with a grander event in April or May. But now the plan is to merge it with the Air Force anniversary because a separate event would create more of a stir.

"We were motivated by North Korea's nuclear and missile threats to purchase the F-35A stealth jets in the first place," the officer added. "But now the state-of-the-art jet that we're so proud of is being treated like an unwanted guest even though the North's nuclear arsenal remains intact."

After watching the launch of the new short-range ballistic missiles from Wonsan, Kangwon Province last Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said South Korean President Moon Jae-in "should not make a mistake of ignoring today's warning from Pyongyang."

He hinted that the regime would launch another provocation unless South Korea and the U.S. cancel a joint military drill in August and the deployment of the F-35As.

The regime continues to condemn joint drills. The official Rodong Sinmun daily on Sunday said South Korea is "surreptitiously committing hostile activities" as it keeps holding joint drills with the U.S. "by only changing its names despite its promise to scrap them."

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