|President Moon Jae-In, left, meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., in this April 12 (local time) photo. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to ask President Moon Jae-in to purchase more F-35A stealth fighter jets at his planned summit with the South Korean leader late this month, defense analysts said, Wednesday.
After participating in this year's G20 summit to be held in the Japanese city of Osaka from June 28 to 29, Trump plans to hold another in-person meeting with Moon on June 30 to discuss issues of mutual interest and explore ways to further strengthen their security alliance, according to Cheong Wa Dae and the U.S. Department of State.
They expect Trump to mention South Korea's purchase of U.S. military equipment "again" at his next encounter with the South Korean leader, as he did in an earlier summit, April 12.
"If Trump brings up the issue of the South Korean government's additional purchase of F-35As, this could accelerate the procurement project as the Republic of Korea Air Force has repeatedly raised the need to deploy more of the stealth jets," said Shin Jong-woo, representative secretary of the Korea Defense and Security Forum.
"But this does not mean the U.S is putting pressure on South Korea to buy more of its weapons, as it was the South Korean side who wanted to deploy the high-performance stealth jets from the U.S. The plan to deploy 20 more stealth jets from abroad has been in talks for years."
In September 2014, South Korea announced a deal to procure 40 F-35 fighters in a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal worth about $6.1 billion. The first two of these fighters arrived here in late March.
Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) spokesman Park Jeong-eun said the procurement project for additional purchases of F-35As has been underway with the advanced research completed earlier this year.
"Currently, we are establishing the basic strategies for the business promotion," Park said.
A recent handshake agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, the producer of the F-35A, lowered this year's price of the stealth jet to $81.35 million per F-35A from $89.2 million in the previous purchase.
The agreement has also brought further options under which the price per jet would be lowered by an estimated average of 15 percent to below $80 million for two additional years. The price of F-35As sold to the U.S. Air Force also influences that of those sold to other countries including South Korea.