President Donald Trump came away from his South Korea visit Wednesday with a renewed commitment from President Moon Jae-in for major buys of U.S. weapons programs worth billions, including F-35s, Global Hawk drones and the Aegis ashore anti-missile system.
In a joint statement issued before Trump left for China, Moon underscored “his plan to substantially increase defense spending by 2022, which will help cover the Republic of Korea’s financial commitments made by past administrations to major United States origin programs.”
The weapons systems include F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, KF-16 fighter upgrades, Patriot PAC-3 ballistic missile upgrades, AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopters, Global Hawk high-altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and the Aegis combat systems, the statement said.
Trump also “reaffirmed his support” for South Korea’s acquisition and development of the advanced military assets on its wish list, the statement said.
Moon has pledged to boost South Korea’s defense spending by seven percent annually through 2022 in response to the threat from North Korea. In August, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that the defense budget for 2018 would increase 6.9 percent to $38.2 billion.
Moon’s pledge built on a previous South Korean plan announced in 2015 to boost defense spending by a total of about $215 billion from 2016 to 2020.
Trump touted U.S. military equipment in his South Korea visit and in his previous stop in Japan on his 11-day Asian tour. In a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump stressed missile defense.
Abe responded that Japan already buys significant amounts of U.S. military equipment, but he agreed that Japan had to “enhance our defense capability” against the North Korean missile threat.
“Missile defense is something based on cooperation between Japan and the U.S.,” he said, adding “if it is necessary” to shoot down a missile, “of course we will do that.”
Trump said Abe will be able to down North Korean missiles “when he completes the purchase of a lot of military equipment from the United States. It’s a lot of jobs for us; it’s a lot of safety for Japan.”
“The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should,” Trump said. “And we make the best military equipment by far.”
Last summer, Japan’s Ministry of Defense pledged to buy Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the ballistic missile defense system on Navy ships.