South Korea marked the official induction of the F-35A stealth fighters into its Air Force by displaying the jet during the Armed Forces Day ceremony despite strong protests from North Korea.
Seoul has so far received eight F-35As, out of the 40 fifth-generation stealth jets it plans to acquire over the next 2 years.
North Korea has viewed the arrival of the US-made jets as significantly tilting the balance of power in favor of the South with which it had embarked on a peace process since last year. In response, Pyongyang has launched short and medium range missiles to display its strike capability.
During the ceremony to mark the 71st Armed Forces Day held at the Air Force's 11th Fighter Wing base in the southeastern city of Daegu, four of the eight next-generation fighters were mobilized "to show the military's prowess," the defense ministry said as per a report in Yonhap News.
President Moon Jae-in made a ceremonial inspection of the jet besides other military hardware of the Korean Armed Forces.
Under the theme "strong armed forces alongside the people," the ceremony also involved other strategic military assets -- in stark contrast to last year's event held soon after President Moon Jae-in's third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Moon arrived at the air base in a Surion, one of the country's indigenous helicopters to signal the government trust in its reliability. The Surion has earlier been plagued by niggles that has delayed development.
Other weapons on display included unmanned aerial vehicles, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, the M-SAM missile defense system, Hyunmoo-2 short-range ballistic missiles, Haeseong-2 long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and the Army Tactical Missile System.
After a 18-month hiatus, North Korea resumed its major weapons tests in May and has since launched short-range projectiles in succession, involving short-range ballistic missiles.
South Korea has made defence exports a priority and speedy induction of locally-made military hardware is a sure way of attracting attention of foreign buyers. The ADEX defence exhibition later this month is expected to see increased traction of foreign buyers.