US Deploys F-35 Stealth Fighters to South Korea for Joint Military Drills

US Deploys F-35 Stealth Fighters to South Korea for Joint Military Drills
A U.S. F-35A fighter jet lands at Chungju Air Base, South Korea on March 29, 2019. (South Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

The United States deployed six F-35A stealth fighters to South Korea for joint military drills to demonstrate U.S.-South Korea deterrence amid North Korea's growing nuclear threat.

The six aircraft departed from the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska on Tuesday.

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said they would join several other U.S. and South Korean aircraft, including South Korea's F-35As, during the 10-day military drills involving "familiarization and routine training flights."

"The aircraft plan to operate over the Republic of Korea and surrounding waters off the coasts during the scheduled 10-day training mission," the USFK said in a statement, referring to South Korea's official name.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said the purpose was to demonstrate the two allies' "strong deterrence and combined defense posture," as well as "to improve interoperability between the two air forces," Yonhap News Agency reported.
This follows an agreement between President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, in May to initiate talks on expanding joint military drills on the Korean Peninsula and reinforcing the combined defense posture.

During their meeting, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to South Korea "using the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities."

The two leaders condemned North Korea’s resumption of nuclear tests as a “grave threat” to the world while remaining open to dialogue with Pyongyang.

Trilateral Alliance

North Korea's nuclear threats have prompted South Korea to boost cooperation with both the U.S. and Japan.
On June 29, the three countries' leaders met on the sidelines of the NATO summit and discussed the need to enhance "trilateral cooperation" against Pyongyang.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry denounced the tripartite alliance as a means to materialize the U.S.'s plan to form a military alliance similar to NATO in the Asia-Pacific region, Pyongyang's official news agency reported.

"The reality clearly shows that the real purpose of the U.S. spreading the rumor about 'threat from North Korea' is to provide an excuse for attaining military supremacy over the Asia-Pacific region including the Korean Peninsula, and furthermore, the rest of the world," it stated.

"The prevailing situation more urgently calls for building up the country's defenses to actively cope with the rapid aggravation of the security environment of the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the world," the ministry added.

Pyongyang has conducted 18 missile launches involving 33 ballistic missiles since the beginning of the year, and Washington anticipated that it could conduct a seventh nuclear test at “any time.”

The United States has been urging a return to a dialogue with North Korea, which Pyongyang has ignored because of what it says are the United States and its allies’ hostile policies.