MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Price of the Alliance: The F-35 Undermines Korean Peace, South Korea’s National Security – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on October 16, 2019

One might wonder why South Korea is even taking delivery of a plane that, as a model, is still being evaluated and is by no means near full development seventeen years into the program. This is because Lockheed Martin is fast-tracking the rollout of units for foreign purchase to offset the outrageous cost of the program. Essentially South Korea is buying a fleet of unfinished, defective jets.

I wonder what the Boltonesque non-refusable deal was that would make SK buy and flaunt a piece of junk to jeopardize peace.

https://original.antiwar.com/Stu_Smallwood/2019/10/15/price-of-the-alliance-the-f-35-undermines-korean-peace-south-koreas-national-security/

South Korean President Moon Jae-in did something very unusual in early October for a leader who once deemed the Korean peace process among the highest priorities of his administration: He promoted the very fighter jets that North Korea says undermine diplomacy.

President Moon was on hand to celebrate the first delivery of the Lockheed Martin F-35A “next generation” fighter jets that, with 40 in total set to arrive by 2021, represent the most expensive weapons purchase in South Korean history according to Reuters.

“The war of the future will be a fight of science and intelligence against all elements that threaten our people’s safety and property,” Moon said in a speech to promote the jets, noting that he felt “secure about the might of [South Korea’s] military armed with new … F-35As.”

Diplomacy with North Korea aside, one could accept South Korea’s introduction of the F-35A as a necessary evil for national security if the jets were crucial to addressing a critical shortcoming in military capacity. But the evidence suggests the opposite – that there is, in fact, nothing “scientific” or “intelligent” about the purchase. Nor is there any clear need to publicly celebrate the delivery of these jets, using them as a prop to appear strong on national security (itself an acquiescence to South Korea’s hawkish right wing) at a time when the peace process is hanging over the abyss by a thread.

The F-35 Fuels North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Advancements

Perception rules when it comes to national security and the F-35A is, in theory, a game-changer for South Korean force projection. Official claims suggest the jet threatens North Korea’s ability to retaliate in the face of a US-South Korean invasion. This is hugely problematic because a basic element of military strategy is maintaining not only the capacity, but (just as importantly) the appearance of the capacity, to respond with prohibitive force in the event of an enemy attack.

This appearance alone should be enough to discourage any rational actor from considering a pre-emptive strike. This concept is commonly referred to as mutually assured destruction in nuclear warfare, but the principle is the same for conventional weaponry. North Korea relies heavily on ballistic missiles and artillery targeting South Korea for this purpose. As things currently stand, the threat of massive casualties in Seoul is enough to prevent overt attempts at North Korean regime change.

Yet, the F-35A is said to be a stealth jet that can travel undetected at unprecedented speeds to deliver payloads to a target. This would – again in theory – allow the South Korean air force to fly into North Korean territory undetected and destroy their ballistic missile launchers, dealing a serious blow to their retaliatory capabilities and potentially making the price of an invasion much less prohibitive…

Problems Abound for the Unfinished, Inadequately Tested F-35A

Without access to the F-35A, North Korea is forced to believe the hype – and respond to the potential threat it represents. But one would naturally assume South Korea, as an ally of the United States and reliable purchaser of US weaponry surely has in-depth knowledge of just what the F-35A is – and isn’t – capable of. This makes President Moon’s use of the jets as a national security prop all the more disconcerting because even official reports indicate the F-35A is a turkey.

Not even the US military knows whether the jet will ever be reliable because it hasn’t even come close to being adequately tested and still faces myriad issues. Dan Grazier, an F-35 expert at the Project On Government Oversight, reported in August that the F-35 test fleet has only achieved an 11 percent “fully mission capable rate” – embarrassingly low when the initial goal was to reach 80 percent readiness by the end of operational testing.

One might wonder why South Korea is even taking delivery of a plane that, as a model, is still being evaluated and is by no means near full development seventeen years into the program. This is because Lockheed Martin is fast-tracking the rollout of units for foreign purchase to offset the outrageous cost of the program. Essentially South Korea is buying a fleet of unfinished, defective jets…

The purchase of the F-35A must be viewed in this context – in the same vein as the introduction of the THAAD system, which itself is an unproven technology that strains South Korea’s relationship with China as well as North Korea. If the acquisition of flawed and untested weaponry is the price of the alliance, at what point does the alliance itself become prohibitively expensive, both in terms of raw tax dollars and the threat to regional stability?

It is bad enough that a supposed peace president not only fails to address this question; that he flaunts the dubious and provocative F-35A as a political prop is all the more troubling and indicative of South Korea’s unfortunate role in relation to the US – a loyal customer of US weapons above all, regardless of its national interest.

Be seeing you

Screenshot of Korean War from American History Lux

 

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