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Powell pressed for U.S. fighter purchase

Posted February. 19, 2001 19:28,   


Allegations that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed for Seoul`s acquisition of Boeing F15 fighters when he met with visiting Korean Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Lee Joung-Binn in Washington on Feb. 7 has sparked a controversy here. The leading American aircraft manufacturer is bidding to sell its FX models to Korea.

A ranking Seoul government official who was on hand at the Washington meeting admitted Sunday that Powell briefly referred to the quality of F15 fighters toward the end of the tete-a-tete, but said it did not strike him as an official request or an attempt to apply pressure. However, it was considered inappropriate for the secretary of state to mention the quality of the F15 during his first encounter with the Korean foreign affairs-trade minister, and analysts said it might be construed as a statement of his hope to see the FX model adopted by Seoul. The government reportedly informed the defense ministry and other agencies concerned of Powell`s remarks.

U.S. Senator Christopher Bond and Boeing vice president and former deputy secretary of defense Thomas Pickering visited Seoul and called on Defense Minister Cho Seong-Tae on Feb. 13 and 16, respectively. The two also met with a number of other local officials and business leaders.

Boo Hyung-Kwon bookum90@donga.com