US closes fighter jet deal with South Korea as East Asia tensions rise

Sep 14, 2023, 8:11am EDT
 A Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet performs a flying display at the 54th International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 20, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
securityEast Asia
Jenna Moon/

The U.S. approved the sale of 25 F-35 fighter jets to South Korea, amid rising tensions in East Asia.

On Wednesday North Korea launched missile tests as its leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit in Russia’s far east. Meanwhile, Taiwan reported that 68 Chinese military aircraft entered its territory, while 10 navy vessels neared its marine border.

Taiwan is currently seeing an increase in Chinese military posturing off its coastline. "The period from July to September this year was the peak period for the Chinese Communist Party’s exercises," Maj. Gen. Huang Wen-Chi said in a recent press conference. China has sent warships and planes into Taiwanese territory almost daily this year, an apparent ramping up of its military presence in the area.1 Meanwhile, China is progressing in its development of an aircraft carrier, the Fujian, which is expected to be finished in 2025.2

Beijing unveiled an "integration plan" that it claims would help Taiwanese people work and live in China. In an interview with The Guardian, Rorry Daniels, managing director of Asia Society Policy Institute, said the plan's release on Wednesday, coupled with the ramped-up military measures, painted a stark picture of Beijing's goals. "How are the Taiwanese people supposed to interpret this? Go to the mainland for great economic opportunity, but fly over the warships we’ve surrounded your island with?" she asked.3

Concerns have been swirling for months over North Korea's nuclear threat. The isolated nation has ramped up testing of missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles, prompting the U.S. and South Korea to conduct more joint military exercises.4 "Overall, in the last year, both North and South Korea have taken a less compromising position, shored up alliances, and ramped up military provocations and readiness," The Council on Foreign Relations noted in a recent overview of the conflict.5


International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear tensions remain dangerously high on Korean Peninsula


Council on Foreign Relations, North Korea Crisis