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S. Korea to buy 2 advanced spy planes from France
SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to buy two advanced reconnaissance planes from France by 2015, to allow the military to intercept radio messages from of North Korea, a government source said Monday.

   The South's military will replace some of its aging spy planes with the militarized specialty version of "Falcon-2000" jet, produced by France's Dassault Aviation, to keep closer watch on North Korea, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

   "The military decided to introduce two Falcon-2000 reconnaissance planes to replace its old spy planes that have a short range and old equipment," the source said.

   The decision comes after South Korea's intelligence and military leaders came under fire for failing to detect the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il until the North announced it a week earlier.

   Kim, who ruled North Korea with an iron fist after inheriting power from his father and national founder Kim Il-sung in 1994, was reported to have died of a heart attack on Dec. 17.

   South Korea's Air Force is currently using a fleet of RC-800s, built by U.S. firm Raytheon, for tactical reconnaissance and surveillance operations.

   Deployment of the French spy jets will take place before December 2015, when South Korea is scheduled to retake wartime operational control over its troops from the U.S., the source said.

   The U.S. has held wartime command of South Korean troops since the beginning of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Seoul regained peacetime control of its military in 1994.

   About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North and it is no secret that South Korea shares U.S. intelligence on North Korea. The U.S. routinely flies reconnaissance planes along the border and closely monitors the North through its spy satellites.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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