Korea 'Still in the Running' in Israeli Trainer Jet Deal

Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday said there is still a chance that Israel could buy Korean-made T-50 supersonic trainer jets.

Last month, Israel decided on the Italian-made M-346 trainer jet that had been in competition with Korea's T-50 in a US$1 billion acquisition bid.

But U.S.-based Defense News recently reported that the M-346 deal could be scrapped. Italy had agreed to buy $1 billion worth of Israeli-made surveillance planes and spy satellites in return, but its fiscal crisis apparently means it might be unable to keep up its end of the deal.

Lieberman told reporters trainer jet acquisition is an Air Force matter and he is not in charge of it. But he added he discussed the matter with Korea, and while nothing is certain, "the possibility is open." But the Israeli Embassy in Seoul later said there was nothing new to add since a decision about the T50 has already been made.

Lieberman arrived in Seoul on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. It is the second visit to Korea by an Israeli foreign minister.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 16, 2012 11:44 KST