A notification for the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Japan has been submitted to Congress by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). F-35B is a stealth fighter jet with vertical take-off and landing capabilities, and may help amphibious assault ships acquire aggressive combat traits similar to an aircraft carrier.

"It is vital to US national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defence capability," the DSCA said, highlighting that the proposed sale "will not alter the basic military balance in the region".

The DSCA on Thursday said the sale includes 42 F-35B jets able to be deployed on amphibious assault ships. The US State Department had already approved the sale before DSCA's submission. Besides the batch of F-35B, Japan also requested 63 F-35A jets, along with 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines, the DSCA said.

F-35B Lighting II
F-35B Lighting II training flights (Representational Picture) Wikimedia Commons

'Strategic Vision' Pact With Thailand

US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville met with Thailand's prime minister and its army chief on Friday, in the first high-level visit by a foreign delegation to Thailand since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted international travel.

McConville met with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and also Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong and signed a Strategic Vision Statement, a US Embassy statement said, as Washington looks to reassure allies about its commitment to the region.

Countering China

The United States has sought to counter China's influence in Southeast Asia, most recently by sending two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea while the Chinese military conducted drills near islands that are also claimed by Vietnam.

Thailand is Washington's oldest ally in Asia, but relations were strained by a 2014 military coup led by then-army chief Prayuth that ousted an elected civilian government. However, Prayuth on Friday also acknowledged $2 million in US aid to help Thailand to cope with the coronavirus, according to a news release from his office.

(With inputs from agencies)