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South Korea Strengthens Its Defenses as Washington Claims Peace Will Be Achieved in 2.5 Years

Even as Washington agreed to suspend joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises as the country pursues peace with North Korea and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, Seoul is modernizing its military and purchasing new missiles and fighter aircraft.

South Korea lives under constant threat of an attack by North Korea, and the country’s leadership has promoted the idea of diplomatic negotiations as a result. South Korea was largely responsible for convincing Pyongyang and Washington to come to the negotiating table. But simultaneously, Seoul is aiming to prepare its defenses in case the U.S. decides to halt joint military exercises indefinitely or pull out the around 28,000 troops it has stationed inside South Korea’s borders.

With this in mind, it is looking to upgrade its military equipment, particularly its air force and navy, according to reports. South Korea will now purchase F-35A stealth aircraft from Lockheed Martin, one of the company's most modern fighters.

“In the near term, the stealth technology on our 5th Generation platforms, the F-22 and F-35, is the price of admission into the fight. The lethal envelope of advanced air-defense systems continues to grow against our 4th Generation aircraft,” General Mark Welsh, the former chief of staff for the U.S. Air Force, said in a statement.

The purchases are being finalized as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims that the U.S. can achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in just two and a half years. Experts, however, indicated that Pompeo still has a lot of work to do before the isolated country gives up its nuclear capabilities. President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday, but the historic meeting was just the first step toward diplomacy, according to some experts.

“The summit didn't result in a concrete framework for how to get to denuclearization or normalized U.S-North Korea relations, but it did put in place a process for sustained negotiations led by the State Department. Secretary Pompeo and the other diplomats who will lead these talks no doubt have a lot of challenging tasks ahead of them, not only in getting North Korea to agree to significant follow-up measures, but in keeping Washington, Seoul and Beijing on the same page as each pursues bilateral engagement with Pyongyang,” Daniel Wertz, associate director of the National Committee on North Korea, told Newsweek.

“There are a number of initial steps that need to be taken to start the process of rolling back North Korea's nuclear program. The dismantlement of some additional missile testing infrastructure, which President Trump mentioned at the summit, is a modest start, but should be followed up with a freeze of North Korea's uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs, and a full declaration of its nuclear activities,” Wertz continued.

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