NATIONAL

Pyongyang denounces Seoul’s introduction of stealth fighters as breach of military pact

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Apr 8, 2019 - 16:46
  • Updated : Apr 8, 2019 - 16:46

A North Korean propaganda website denounced Seoul’s deployment of stealth fighter jets Sunday, calling it a breach of the inter-Korean military agreement that could lead to “catastrophic outcomes.”

In a statement titled, “What the introduction of high-tech weapons show,” Pyongyang’s Uriminzokkiri said it was a betrayal for South Korea to deploy the two F-35A jets, which arrived at a key air base of the South’s Air Force on March 29.

Stealth fighter jet F-35A lands on the Air Force base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province on March 29. (Yonhap)

“This is a hostile act that raises military tension on the Korean Peninsula, and it is an apparent defiance to the people’s longing and our efforts to maintain peace,” it read, while describing the stealth fighters as “cutting-edge” warplanes.

The two F-35A fighters arrived here as part of a deal made in 2014 when the government under former President Park Geun-hye decided to purchase 40 stealth fighters for about 7.4 trillion won ($6.8 billion).

The website also likened the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration to former conservative Park’s, which would “blabber about pre-emptive strike against their own people.” Inter-Korean relations were frozen under the conservative Park administration, which took a hard-line approach against the communist regime.

Pyongyang also claimed Seoul was breaching the inter-Korean military pact signed in September 2018, though the agreement does not ban the South from purchasing weapons.

“As we held the hands of the South Korean government to open a new era, we have made clear that the joint military exercises (with the United States) and introduction of military arms from outside should completely be stopped, as it is the source of tension on the Peninsula,” the statement read.

The two Koreas signed the Military Comprehensive Agreement on Sept. 19, aimed to put a halt to all hostilities and to build trust. While the joint pact was committed measures reducing military tensions, such as establishing ground, maritime and air buffer zones around the border, it does not specifically prevent them from holding joint military exercises with other countries nor purchasing military weapons.

Uriminzokkiri, however, did not mention Pyongyang’s own breach of the military accord in failing to meet the designated date to conduct a joint war remains recovery project it had signed on to. As the North remained unresponsive on the excavation project, the South’s military launched spadework on its own on April 1 in the Arrowhead Ridge in the Demilitarized Zone.

The two F-35A fighters are expected to be completely combat deployed in April or May. According to the defense acquisition agency here, some 10 or more F-35A fighters are set to arrive in South Korea by the end of this year, and the total 40 jets will completely be transferred here by 2021.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)