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Defense Minister Han to urge U.S. tech assistance for KF-X

All Headlines 10:47 October 14, 2015

SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Han Min-koo now accompanying President Park Geun-hye on her U.S. trip will request Washington reconsider its rejection of key technology assistance for South Korea's KF-X indigenous jet fighter project, a government official said Wednesday.

The Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) project, under which South Korea is to produce 120 combat jets, is running into a major impasse after the U.S. Department of State in April refused to grant permission on U.S.-based Lockheed Martin's export of four out of the 25 fighter jet technologies it has promised Seoul.

Amid growing jitters over the local project, Han joined Park's state visit to the United States, becoming the fourth defense minister to have been part of a presidential visit to the U.S.

Park is to make a rare visit to the Pentagon on Thursday, the second South Korean president to go to the U.S. Defense Department after her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.

During the four-day U.S. visit through Friday, Han will hold talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and discuss the technology assistance issue, according to the official.

"During the visit, Minister Han will meet with Secretary Carter separately in the Pentagon and may raise the issue of transferring KF-X's four key technologies," the official noted.

Other alliance issues and joint combat readiness against North Korea may also be on the table.

Whether Han will successfully win U.S. permission is unclear, given the U.S.' general unwillingness to transfer strategically important defense technologies.

"The U.S. has never transferred the four concerned technologies abroad in the past," another government official said, referring to the technology needed to integrate active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar into a jet's mission computer, as well as three other rejected technologies.

"For South Korea, the U.S. side decided in April not to allow the transfer, but Han will still do his utmost," according to the official.

In August, Han requested U.S. technology support in a letter sent to Carter, but the written request was unanswered.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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