South Korea on Tuesday showed off some of its new U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets during its Armed Forces Day ceremony on Tuesday, in a move likely to unsettle its communist neighbor North Korea.
As part of a deal signed between the two countries last year, South Korea will purchase 40 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin by 2021. The first set of aircraft were delivered this year and were showcased on Tuesday in front of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon and other officials inspected the new assets at a ceremony in the city of Daegu, which include an “F-35A, reconnaissance drone, Hyunmoo II ballistic and Hyunmoo III cruise missiles, as well as PAC-III and M-SAM missile defense systems and K-9 self-propelled artillery.”
In a televised speech, Moon admitted it was the first time he felt “secure about the might of our military armed with new equipment such as F-35As,” adding that South Koreans should feel “very proud” of their country’s rising military strength.
As noted by Yonhap News Agency, Daegu was “one of the last defense lines for South Korea” and its “victories in fierce battles there helped turn the tide of the war triggered by the North’s surprise attack.” As a result, the city has become a “traditional stronghold of the nation’s conservative bloc, especially the main opposition Liberty Korea Party,” and is often referred to as a “sacred place” for South Korean conservatism.
Despite his low popularity due to his left-wing views and support for appeasement of North Korea, Moon commended Daegu’s citizens, pointing out that they had to suffer the inconveniences of holding the country’s military facilities. “When the country is in trouble, Daegu citizens have always shown amazing patriotism,” he said.
“Peace is something to make, not to keep,” Moon said. “Our military’s airtight security (measures) support dialogue and cooperation and enable (us) to take an audacious walk toward permanent peace.”
Attempts at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement between the United States and North and South Korea have stalled in recent months, with a planned summit between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February cut short due to disputes over continued sanctions against the regime. The two men held a brief meeting at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in late June where they agreed to resume negotiations.