The Obama administration has formally proposed the sale of advanced spy drones to South Korea, in a push to boost the Seoul government's ability to protect itself from attacks by the heavily-militarized North.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement that it has officially notified Congress of the proposed $1.2 billion deal for four high-altitude Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, as well as training and logistical support. Analysts say congressional approval is likely.
Plans call for South Korea to take over operational control of its troops from the United States in 2015, and the security agency says Seoul will “have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces.” The current system of U.S. control grew out of the U.S. role in the 1950-1953 Korean war, which halted a North Korean push to take control of the South.
The Global Hawk, with its cloud-penetrating radar, carries high-resolution digital cameras and infrared sensors. It is reportedly capable of detecting an object less than 30 centimeters in length from an altitude of about 20 kilometers.
Earlier this month, North Korea defied international warnings and launched a long-range rocket that placed a satellite into orbit.
The White House called the launch a “highly provocative act.” Since then, some analysts say Pyongyang may have developed its ballistic missile capability to the point of reaching as far away as the U.S. mainland.