Thursday, December 22, 2005

Controversy brewing?

Now it's time for something mundane, but no less important. Some are making noises about a "weakening alliance" given that South Korea has delayed selection of a winner of a $2 billion contract to supply four E-X early warning aircraft, where American aerospace giant Boeing is competing with Israeli aircraft maker IAI ELTA.

Some are seeing controversy, too, since the US side has supposedly not yet given permission to IAI ELTA to make a deal with South Korea, but it has for Boeing.

This comes on the heels of U.S. helicopter-maker Bell failing to win a $1.3 billion project from South Korea to develop new multipurpose helicopters, losing to a Franco-German consortium. Some see it as a move to ease decades-long U.S. monopoly in South Korea's weapons procurement, and conservative Hannara Party (Grand National Party) officials have accused the government of not conducting the selection process fairly.

South Korean defense officials defended their decision for this second postponement of the selection, saying the two bidders failed to submit technology data regarding communication devices by an October deadline and that, "It is impossible to decide the contractor without testing the function of such devices due to the importance attached to them."

This issue may hit some sore points. South Korea has relied very heavily on American companies and the government for its weapons programs,

SNU scientists have said they will investigate, and we expect to see a report in Nature very soon.

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