P.M. BRIEFING : S. Korea Pledges to Buy U.S. Jets

From Times wire service s

South Korea Defense Minister Lee Sang Hoon pledged today to purchase U.S. fighter jets to upgrade his nation's defenses, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said discussions will continue on that nation's proposal to co-produce the aircraft.

The South Korean proposal to co-produce a U.S. fighter has raised concern among members of Congress that sensitive U.S. technology would be transferred to a nation that could then produce the planes on its own.

The South Koreans have not yet decided whether to request the F-16, made by General Dynamics Corp., or the F-18, made by McDonnell Douglas Corp., Lee said. The South Koreans reportedly want to buy a dozen of the planes, assemble three dozen more from U.S.-supplied kits and then build about 72 on their own.

Lee said the decision on which plane to purchase will be made at the end of August or the beginning of September. "I would like to make it very clear that we are going to purchase aircraft with sources in the United States," he said.

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