The Pentagon disclosed recently that Marine F-35B fighters are operating in South Korea for the first time in joint training exercises with the Republic of Korea military. The exercises are conducted to assure the two allies can mesh seamlessly in a real military operation, and the Marine F-35s dispatched from Japan are engaged mainly in practicing close air support of friendly ground forces. However, the F-35 presence is also sending a powerful signal to North Korea’s bellicose government that Washington (and soon South Korea) will have the capability to strike any target in the North without being detected by radar. That’s what it means to be stealthy — the enemy can’t see you, but you can see the enemy. This asymmetry makes F-35 a potent deterrent to aggression, on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere. When a country contemplating attack is defenseless against preemption or retaliation, it has to think long and hard about whether military victory is possible. So sending Marine F-35s to South Korea doesn’t just help prepare for future conflicts, it helps avert them. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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