The U.S. approved a sale of up to 25 F-35 fighter jets to the South Korean military, according to multiple reports, citing the State Department, an effort to bolster U.S. allies in East Asia amid increasing North Korean and Chinese aggression.
The deal could cost as much as $5.06 billion and will give South Korea the Lockheed Martin-made fighter jets as well as engines, communications gear and support, according to Bloomberg.
It will require congressional approval and may take years to be completed.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency told Bloomberg that the deal will “augment Korea’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability.”
This deal comes weeks after President Joe Biden invited South Korean and Japanese leaders to Camp David in Maryland in August to discuss the geopolitical threats from North Korea and China. North Korea has continually tested ballistic missiles in the seas surrounding South Korea and Japan. On Wednesday, it fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern seas, the Associated Press reported. At the same time, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was in Russia meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about potential arms deals that could strengthen both North Korea’s and Russia’s militaries. North Korea’s military has completed 100 missile launches since the start of 2022, according to the AP. Additionally, the U.S. State Department has warned that China is “using military and economic coercion to bully its neighbors, advance unlawful maritime claims, threaten maritime shipping lanes, and destabilize territory” along its periphery.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Lockheed Martin’s fighter jets have become the ire of many. For over a year, Ukraine pleaded with Western leaders to provide the country with the company’s F-16 fighter jets until the country’s wishes were finally granted earlier this year. The first F-16s are expected to arrive in Ukraine this month. Additionally, the Czech Republic got approval to strike a deal similar to South Korea’s in June that saw them receive 24 F-35 jets for $5.62 billion.
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