Defense

US stealth fighters arrive in South Korea amid tensions with North

U.S. Air Force F-35 stealth fighter jets arrived in South Korea on Tuesday to conduct flight operations alongside their South Korean counterparts amid tensions with North Korea.

The aircraft are expected to fly with several others over South Korea and surrounding waters as part of a 10-day training mission, U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement. South Korean F-35 aircraft are expected to fly with the American aircraft.

“The familiarization and routine training flights will enhance the interoperability of the two Air Forces to perform and operate on and around the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.

“The aviation training is also an opportunity for the aircrews to perform sustainment and maintenance duties to support the latest in military aircraft technology,” it added.

In a separate statement, South Korea’s defense ministry said the drills are aimed at “demonstrating the South Korea-U.S. alliance’s strong deterrence and combined defense posture, as well as improving interoperability between the two Air Forces,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

Tuesday’s deployment is the first time in five years the U.S. has publicly deployed stealth warplanes to South Korea. Washington last publicly disclosed sending stealth fighters in December 2017, when it sent F-22 stealth fighters and F-35 aircraft to participate in a joint aerial drill.

The drills also come amid escalated tension with North Korea, which appears to be ramping up its missile tests.

In early June, the U.S. and its allies flew dozens of jets over the Korean Peninsula in exercises aimed at responding to provocations from Pyongyang, The Associated Press reported at the time.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol welcomed President Biden to Seoul in mid-May, during which the two expressed an interest in expanding combined military drills around the Korean Peninsula.

“Both leaders agree to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula,” the leaders said in a joint statement on May 21.

In addition, the U.S. also reaffirmed its commitment to “deploy strategic U.S. military assets in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary, as well as to enhance such measures and identify new or additional steps to reinforce deterrence in the face of DPRK destabilizing activities.”

Tags North Korea South Korea Stealth fighters
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