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Pres. Lee to Stress Sales of Trainer Jet and Nuke Plants

Pres. Lee to Stress Sales of Trainer Jet and Nuke Plants

Posted January. 02, 2010 08:38,   


President Lee Myung-bak was briefed Friday on diplomacy and national security affairs at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry pledged tangible results to win additional orders for nuclear power plants and export the supersonic trainer jet T-50 this year.

The ministry’s plan reflects President Lee’s intention to consider advanced airplanes and nuclear plants as core industries to strengthen Korea’s economy and national prestige. He has ordered relevant agencies to provide full support to raise exports of the T-50.

Over the past 13 years, Korea has invested two trillion won (1.7 billion U.S. dollars) to develop the T-50. Last year, however, the United Arab Emirates in a tender picked the M-346 of Italy over the T-50.

Ahead of the UAE’s selection, Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o visited Abu Dhabi in January last year to promote the T-50. After receiving the news that the Korean model would not be chosen, President Lee grew significantly discouraged since the all-out effort by the presidential office and government agencies failed to win the bid.

He began paying attention to the T-50 in 2007, when he was Seoul mayor. When he visited Korea Aerospace Industries as a presidential candidate of the Grand National Party that year, he took a close look at the T-50 and asked staff lots of questions. He even sat in the cockpit.

A high-ranking government official said, “Learning lessons from the failure to export the T-50, President Lee made a lot of effort to sell nuclear power plants to the UAE. His unyielding efforts helped Korea beat France. He will emphasize exporting the T-50 this year.”

The price tag of the T-50 is around 25 million dollars.

The T-50 is again competing against Italy’s M-346 in Singapore’s bid to import trainer jets. The city-state is expected to announce its final selection at the International Air Show between February and March.

A high-ranking Korean official familiar with diplomacy and national security said, “Singapore places top priority on performance for price, putting Korea’s T-50 in a better position. Korea will definitely restore its reputation.”

Singapore’s decision is expected to significantly affect similar purchases by Poland, Greece and Israel, three countries that have announced their willingness to purchase the T-50.

In winning the trainer jet bid from the UAE, the Italian government promised to support several industrial projects. Because Rome has not kept that end of the bargain, voices of regret in the Mideast country are rising.

Certain experts say the UAE could change its decision or choose the T-50 when placing additional orders if Italy fails to keep its promise.