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

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By Joyce Lee

SEOUL, Oct 1 (Reuters) - South Korea showcased newly acquired F-35 stealth fighter jets to mark Armed Forces Day on Tuesday as President Moon Jae-in tries to allay concerns that his policy of engagement with North Korea may be weakening the South's commitment to defence.

North Korea has criticised the South's weapons procurements and its joint military drills with the U.S. military as undisguised preparations for war that were forcing it to develop new short-range missiles.

Moon has thrown his support behind dialogue to end the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, 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 the founding of the South Korean military at a ceremony at an airbase in the city of Taegu that highlighted four of the eight Lockheed Martin F-35A jets delivered this year. Forty of the aircraft are to be delivered by 2021.

Analysts have said the F-35 stealth jets put North Korea’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems in a vulnerable position, with Pyongyang claiming that use of the jets forced it to develop new missiles to "completely destroy" the threat.

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Negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes have stalled since a second summit between U.S. President Donald and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in February over disagreements on denuclearisation.

North Korea blamed the United States on Monday for a failure to restart talks, with Pyongyang's U.N. 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 the portion South Korea will shoulder for the cost of stationing what is now about 28,500 U.S. troops in the country.

Moon told during a summit in New York last week what South Korea would contribute, including an increase in purchases of U.S. weapons and future purchase plans, a senior official at South Korea's presidential office said. (Reporting by Joyce Lee Editing by Jack Kim and Paul Tait)

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