Monday, November 03, 2014

Korea Won’t Send Aerobatics Team to China Air Show • Black Eagles Were Scheduled to Be a Main Attraction

The Wall Street Journal
By Jeyup S. Kwaak

Nov. 3, 2014 5:32 a.m. ET

SEOUL—South Korea dropped a plan to send an aerobatics team to an air show in China less than two weeks before the event, after Washington raised concerns about exposing key U.S. fighter-jet technology.

The South Korean air force’s Black Eagles team, which consists of eight T-50 light combat aircraft, was scheduled to be a main attraction at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, the country’s main aviation trade show, in the southern coastal city of Zhuhai.

The event runs from Nov. 11 to Nov. 16. The organizers of the show and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency had confirmed the Black Eagles’ attendance.

But on Thursday, the defense ministry in Seoul decided not to let the team attend, following objections raised during talks with the U.S. No official announcement was made but a defense ministry official confirmed the decision on Monday.

“The decision was agreed between the U.S. and South Korea because the T-50 jets include core U.S. technologies and so are subject to regulations regarding arms export and international arms trade,” said a South Korean Defense Ministry official who asked not to be named. The official declined to specify when the U.S.-South Korean talks were held.

A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said he had no immediate comment on the move, while media coordinators in Zhuhai for the air show said they didn’t know about the change.

A project funded by the South Korean government, the supersonic fighter T-50 jet is assembled by Korea Aerospace Industries, a local military aircraft and civilian airframe parts maker. It uses wings, in addition to flight control and avionics equipment, made by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Since early this year, Beijing and Seoul have publicly acknowledged discussing the Black Eagles’ participation in the biannual air show, which in recent years has featured performances from Russian and Pakistani teams.

As scheduled, a South Korean air force vice chief of staff will attend the show, which will have a promotional booth for the Black Eagles.

“South Korea is mindful of the importance of the South Korea-China military ties and we put our efforts to improving them,” the South Korean ministry official said.

The U.S. has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, which depends heavily on Washington for protection against North Korean aggression.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Nov. 10 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

—Fanfan Wang in Shanghai contributed to this article. 

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