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F-35A stealth fighters 'sensitive' issue for North Korea, report says

By Elizabeth Shim
F-35A stealth fighters 'sensitive' issue for North Korea, report says
South Korea's purchase of F-35A fighter jets has drawn a reaction from Pyongyang.  File Photo by Airman 1st Class James Kennedy/U.S. Air Force

July 30 (UPI) -- South Korea's military is increasingly concerned about North Korea's rhetoric against the South's deployment of new weapons, including F-35A stealth fighter jets.

Sources in Seoul's military say the North is voicing rising opposition over South Korean weapons purchases, while claiming Seoul's defense acquisitions are a violation of a Sept. 19 inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement, local newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported Tuesday.

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"North Korea is reacting with extreme sensitivity to the F-35A [deployment], and continues to insist it is a violation of the South-North military agreement" of Sept. 19, 2018, JoongAng's source said.

"South Korea needs to take countermeasures because of the possibility North Korea will again argue about the uselessness of the military agreement when the F-35A is included in deployments."

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North Korea could be referring to Section 1 of Article 1 of the 2018 military agreement, which states the two sides agreed to "negotiate" issues of "large-scale military training, armed forces enhancement, strategies of containment, interception, navigation," as well as "the issue of ending reconnaissance operations."

Pyongyang's latest opposition to the F-35A, and its condemnation of U.S.-South Korea military exercises to be held in August, appear to be part of a strategy that is aligned with the inter-Korea military agreement, from North Korea's perspective.

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The Kim Jong Un regime's tests of short-range missiles last week are raising concerns South Korea is not ready for a potential attack. Experts have said the missiles are likely the North Korean version of the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable projectile.

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EDaily reported Tuesday defense ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said the military is sufficiently ready, but did not go into details.

Military sources later told the news service the current system of U.S. Patriot missiles would "cope sufficiently" with North Korea's short-range rockets.

Seoul currently retains the PAC-2 GEM-T Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile, and the PAC-3 CRI or Cost Reduction Initiative interceptors. South Korea will also deploy the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement or MSE in 2020.

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