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US and Korea On Thin Ice Over AWACS Equipment Export Approval

US and Korea On Thin Ice Over AWACS Equipment Export Approval

Posted December. 09, 2005 07:38,   


It was confirmed on December 8 that at a closed meeting between U.S. Ambassador to Korea Alexander Vershbow and Minister of Defense Yoon Kwang-ung on November 23, they skated over thin ice on the issue of US export approval of some U.S. equipment on board Israeli airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS).

According to various military sources, at the meeting, Minister Yoon requested the U.S. to review authorizing the sales of some American equipment on the Israeli Elta AWACS, and Ambassador Vershbow responded that the U.S. government would review the request fairly but would not attempt to manipulate the related procedures.

The U.S. government strictly controls the sales of American companies to other countries by having them undergo a prior sales authorization. Ambassador Vershbow’s comments are interpreted that the possibility of American equipment on Elta’s plane being authorized are quite low.

It is reported that Minister Yoon said in response, “If the U.S. government is not fair in authorizing exports, then the Korean people can interpret it as the U.S. trying to influence Korea’s AWACS procurement project.”

It is also reported that Minister Yoon emphasized, “A more sensitive issue is that due to this, it could affect future Korean procurement of weapons from American companies.” This is seen as a request to the U.S. to understand that the AWACS project considers prices and capabilities, rather than policy matters such as the ROK-U.S. alliance.

The Ministry of National Defense will hold a Procurement and Development Assembly meeting on December 12, decide the equipment that satisfied its criteria, engage in price negotiations, and decide on the final product before the end of this year.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com