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UAE Military Chief Visits S. Korea

Lt. Gen. Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi, chief of staff of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) armed forces, arrived in Seoul on Feb. 22 for a four-day visit, the Ministry of National Defense said.

The visit by the UAE military leader comes amid high expectations here that the two countries could resume talks on the sale of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet, jointly built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin.

Last month, it was revealed that the Emirates had reopened talks with KAI on the T-50 after failing to finalize an agreement on the purchase of Italy's M-346 trainer jet.

The UAE selected Alenia Aermacchi last year as the preferred bidder for a $1.4 billion deal to acquire 48 trainers. But the Middle East nation has failed to reach a deal with the Italian company because of "misunderstanding" over trainer specifications, according to an Arabian defense source.

Seoul's defense officials declined to elaborate on the topics to be discussed between Al Rumaithi and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young Feb. 23.

"Through the bilateral talks, both leaders will discuss a wide range of issues to improve bilateral defense cooperation, such as high-level military exchange visits, military training, cooperation on arms acquisition and support," the ministry said in a news release.

During his stay, the UAE chief of staff is scheduled to visit South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Special Warfare Command in Seoul and the Naval Operations Command in the southern port city of Busan, it said.

Last November, Kim visited the United Arab Emirates to support the country's successful bid to build four nuclear reactors in the Arab nation. Kim met UAE leaders at that time and agreed to bolster their defense cooperation by promising to transfer key arms technologies to the Emirates, according to sources.

The T-50 also is competing with the M-346 for a deal in Singapore to buy 10 to 14 aircraft. Other potential customers include Iraq, Israel, Greece and Poland.

The single-engine T-50 features digital flight controls and a modern, ground-based training system. It is designed to have the maneuverability, endurance and systems to prepare pilots to fly next-generation fighter jets, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-22 Raptor, the Rafale and the F-35 Lightning II.

The jet has a top speed of Mach 1.4 and an operational range of 1,851 kilometers.



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