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S. Korea Enjoys Favorable Status From U.S. in Arms Purchase

S. Korea Enjoys Favorable Status From U.S. in Arms Purchase

Posted August. 16, 2007 07:19,   


It is reported that a U.S. senator submitted, on July 23, a bill that would expedite the South Korean government to purchase weapons, military equipment, and parts and lower fees on South Korea`s arms purchases from the United States.

According to the Korean Embassy in the U.S. on Aug. 14, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Missouri) presented a bill “The United States-Republic of Korea Defense Cooperation Improvement Act of 2007” that would ease notification requirements to Congress, shorten the legislative deliberation period and waive charges incurring from arms deals.

A Washington diplomatic source said, “If the proposed bill is passed in both houses of congress, the status South Korea receives in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program will be raised to second grade, from the current third; meaning that although South Korea was designated as a major non-NATO ally in 1987, it will be given the same status as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

The bill requires the revision of related U.S. laws, such as overseas support laws and arms export control laws to give Congress 15 days to decide whether to approve an arms sale to South Korea, instead of the normal requirement of 30-50 days.

The passage of the bill would simplify some procedures in the Congress deliberation process. Under the proposed bill, the administration must notify Congress of all proposed defense equipment sales that exceed $25 million, up from the current $14 million. In the case of defense articles and services sales, of over $100 million from $50 million, and construction or design services surpassing $ 300 million from the previous $200 million.

In addition, it also allows the U.S. government to reduce incurring charges which are added in the form of fees when buying weapons in the U.S. The bill, however, does not include articles on reducing interest rates on installment payments after arms sales.

The Korean defense ministry provisionally concluded a “slim chance” for the possibility of reducing the discount rates after it raised the issue with the U.S. pentagon in 2005. Korean ambassador to the U.S., Lee Tae-shik, submitted a letter to the National Assembly that read, “I will do my best to upgrade the nation’s FMS rating,” when he requested an increased budget to lobby Congress.

However, a Washington source stated, “The upgraded rating would lead to lower discount rates. But this journalist received a letter from the Korean defense ministry, saying, “Korea has been enjoying better treatment than Japan when it comes to getting training, and receiving defense articles.”

It is reported that Sen. Christopher Bond has often visited Korea since a Boeing-owned armament plant is located in his constituency. Boeing Company has sold 40 F-15K fighter planes so far, and was signed for the E-X airborne early warning system provider at a cost of more than 2 trillion won in 2006. Korea is the fifth-largest importer of weapons from the U.S. with more than $ 6.9 billion worth arms trade for the past decade.

srkim@donga.com sechepa@donga.com