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S. Korea says to pick weapons suppliers in October
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) May 25, 2012


South Korea will select suppliers of military aircraft worth billions of dollars in October, a spokesman said Friday, despite calls from the main opposition party for further studies to be carried out.

The spokesman for the state Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said purchases will include 60 stealth fighters, 36 attack helicopters and eight navy helicopters.

"We plan to announce the names of the suppliers in October," the spokesman told AFP, as tensions between the North and the South and its allies remain high over the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

The contract for the stealth fighters is worth eight trillon won ($6.7 billion), he said. Lockheed Martin's F-35, Boeing's F-15 SE, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Russia's Sukhoi PAK-FA are reportedly competing for the deal.

Some 1.8 trillion won will be allocated to acquire 36 attack helicopters, with Boeing's Apache, Eurocopter's Tiger and Turkey's T129 in competition, the spokesman said.

The massive weapons acquisition plans being pushed through in the last year of President Lee Myung-Bak's presidency have sparked opposition criticism.

The Democratic United Party (DUP) urged the government not to rush through the programme.

"Further study and review are needed before the government goes ahead with the purchase of weapons. If necessary, this project should be handed over to next government," it said in a statement this week.

South Korea has already bought 60 of Boeing's non-stealth F-15 fighter jets since 2002 under the first two stages of a fighter modernisation programme.

The North and South are still technically at war. A peace treaty was never signed after the 1950-53 war ended in an armistice.

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