South Korea displays F-35 stealth jets seen by the North as a threat

A Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet lands at the Payerne Air Base in Switzerand during flight and ground tests in this June 7, 2019 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2019

South Korea displays F-35 stealth jets seen by the North as a threat

  • North Korea has criticized the South’s weapons procurements and its joint military drills with the US military
  • Analysts have said the F-35 stealth jets put Pyongyang’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems in a vulnerable position

SEOUL: South Korea showcased newly acquired F-35 stealth fighter jets to mark Armed Forces Day on Tuesday as President Moon Jae-in tried to allay concerns that his policy of engagement with North Korea would weaken the South’s commitment to defense.
At an event marking the founding of the South Korean military, Moon said South Korean fighter jets conducted patrol flights offshore, including over islands at the center of a bitter territorial dispute with Japan.
North Korea has criticized the South’s weapons procurements and its joint military drills with the US military as undisguised preparations for war that are forcing it to develop new short-range missiles.
Moon has thrown his support behind dialogue to end the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, urging that working-level negotiations between the North and the United States be held soon. No new dates or locations have been set.
Moon marked Armed Forces Day at a ceremony at an air base in the city of Daegu that highlighted four of the eight Lockheed Martin F-35A jets delivered this year. Forty of the aircraft are to be delivered by 2021.
During the event, an F-15K jet patrolled over the islands claimed by both South Korea and Japan and called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
Moon made no direction mention of North Korea or Japan but said today’s security climate was highly unpredictable, requiring strength and innovation.
“As the recent drone attack in the Middle East region demonstrated to the world, the challenges that we will face will be entirely different from those of the past,” he said in an address to the military. “The war of the future will be a fight of science and intelligence against all elements that threaten our people’s safety and property.”
Analysts have said the F-35 stealth jets put North Korea’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems in a vulnerable position.
Negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have stalled since a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in February over disagreements on denuclearization.
North Korea blamed the United States on Monday for a failure to restart talks, with Pyongyang’s UN ambassador Kim Song saying it was time for Washington to share proposals for talks that showed Washington had adopted a new “calculation method.”
South Korea and the United States have separately begun talks for a new military burden-sharing agreement to decide how much South Korea will pay for stationing what is now about 28,500 US troops in the country.
Moon told Trump during a summit in New York last week what South Korea would contribute, including an increase in purchases of US weapons and future purchase plans, a senior official at South Korea’s presidential office said.


Future of talks unclear after Afghan security forces deaths

Updated 16 December 2019

Future of talks unclear after Afghan security forces deaths

  • Taliban claim responsibility for assault that killed 25

KABUL: Taliban guerrillas have killed up to 25 members of the Afghan security forces in the Ghazni province, officials said on Sunday.

It is the latest sign of an escalation in attacks by insurgents even as the fate of peace talks with the US remains unclear.

While members of the provincial council of Ghazni said that 25 local military staff on the payroll of the Defense Ministry died in the assault on Saturday in the Qarabagh district, the ministry put the losses at nine.

There were conflicting accounts about the nature of the attack.

A ministry spokesman in Kabul said that the incident may have been caused by a group of Taliban infiltrators or defectors. 

He said that an investigation had been launched to determine the exact cause of the incident.

Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told Arab News that the insurgents had stormed the security forces’ posts when they were asleep. 

The Taliban also said that militants had staged attacks on the posts, putting deaths among the forces at 32.

“Our information suggests that 25 local military forces were killed in this attack; it is a big tragedy,” Faqiri said.

Ghazni lies on a strategic highway linking Kabul with the southern region and beyond and has been the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting since the start of the year between the Taliban and Afghan forces, backed by US-led troops.

In the face of rising Taliban attacks and as part of a move to stop forces being overstretched and instead serve as a mobile unit, the Defense Ministry established the local military force last year in some parts of the country.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The talks resumed last week after US President Donald Trump paid a surprise visit to Bagram more than two weeks ago.

• Trump pushed for a resumption after calling off talks in September following the death of an American soldier in Kabul.

The force is supposed to be composed of former and retired army officers and act as a local police force. Its creation has been controversial in Afghanistan because members can misuse their power in a tribally divided country.

The reported toll of the latest Taliban attack in Qarabagh is the highest in a single strike since Thursday when US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, announced a pause in the talks with militants following the latter’s abortive massive assault on a US-run major base in Bagram.

Khalilzad expressed outrage about the attack.

The talks resumed last week after President Donald Trump paid a surprise visit to Bagram more than two weeks ago. Trump pushed for a resumption after calling off talks in September following the death of an American soldier in a Taliban attack in Kabul.

Trump has said that a truce is a must for the resumption of the talks, a key demand of President Ashraf Ghani who was left out of all rounds of the discussions.

However, Khalilzad and some other US officials have spoken about a reduction in violence.

Dr. Wais Wardak, an Afghan analyst based in the US, said that in a clear change of policy, Washington was pushing for a truce as a pre-condition.

“I think this time the peace negotiations with the Taliban are more challenging than the previous nine rounds,” he told Arab News.

“This time, a cease-fire or reduction of violence has become a priority for Washington and its European allies who want a clear and pragmatic commitment from the Taliban that they are serious about the peace process …”

Dr. Wardak added: “On the other hand, just like Khalilzad, the Taliban negotiators in Qatar are also under a different sort of pressure from those Taliban who see their interest in fighting rather than peace or diplomacy. Their logic is that fighting is the only means they have at their disposal and that’s how they can assert pressure on the NATO, Afghan government and the Afghan people, which could ultimately land them a better deal.”

The Taliban have rejected a truce in the past, arguing that the group will observe it only after US commits itself to a timetable for withdrawal from the country.

“The talks are in a state of limbo now. The rising of Taliban attacks may have more negative impact on the talks,” Taj Mohammed Ahmadzada, another analyst, said in Kabul.