By: Aaron Mehta
WASHINGTON — In the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear weapons test, U.S. President Donald Trump pledged Tuesday to increase weapon sales to Japan and South Korea.
In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump said, ”I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.”
The tweet followed a Monday call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during which Trump “provided his conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea,” according to a White House readout.
That readout also stated that the U.S. would look to remove limits on payloads of weapons sold to South Korea.
Requests for information from the White House and State Department were not immediately returned. Both South Korea and Japan are close military allies with the U.S. and regular customers of defense articles. Among the high-end technology sold from the U.S. to those two nations is the stealthy F-35 joint strike fighter.
While the outreach will likely be welcome in Seoul, don’t expect a massive flow of defense articles to either nation to happen in the coming weeks.
By its nature, the Foreign Military Sales program means that Trump cannot clear weapon sales and have them immediately flow towards the two Pacific nations. Under the FMS system, foreign countries must first request what they would like to buy. That request is then processed by the State Department, which checks the orders for any legal or regulatory hurdles, and then is passed on to Congress, which must OK the sale.
After that, the country begins working with the Pentagon to negotiate cost, quantity and timing with industry, a process that can drag on for years. And only then will the industrial partner begin production on the equipment. Because of this process, it can often take years between when a country declares its desire to procure American military goods and when it is finally able to use them.
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