October 26, 2015 09:45
Korea may have to scrap the lucrative sale of T-50 trainer jets to Uzbekistan due to U.S. opposition.
A government source on Friday said Korea Aerospace Industries had been in negotiations with the Uzbek government to sell 12 T-50s, but the U.S. government opposes the deal citing possible technology leaks and foreign-policy concerns.
The deal could have netted Korea some US$400 million.
But since KAI developed the T-50 with technological support from Lockheed Martin of the U.S., and most core equipment including avionics and engine are U.S.-designed. That means Seoul needs the nod from Washington if it is to sell them overseas.
Korea has already sold the T-50 to Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand.
But Uzbekistan is a murky dictatorship on ethnic lines and the U.S. is also worried that it could ratchet up tensions with neighboring countries if it bought the jets.
The Defense Ministry, Air Force and Defense Acquisition Program Administration were eager to export the T-50s to Uzbekistan. In May President Park Geun-hye and Uzbek President Islam Karimov discussed the issue during a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, and in April the Uzbek defense minister visited Korea and signed a memorandum of understanding on military exchanges.
At the time he also sat in a T-50 simulator.
A KAI spokesman said, "The U.S. government did not approve the exports, but Uzbekistan still wants the delivery so we will try to convince Washington."
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