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Mon, Jan 27, 2003

U-2 Down in S Korea; Pilot OK

Adding to the nuclear tensions and rising anti-American sentiment along the Korean peninsula, an Air Force General "deeply apologized" Sunday for the crash of an American U-2 near Seoul. The U-2 slammed into an auto repair shop, sparking a fire which consumed the shop and a nearby house. The pilot was able to safely eject, but  three people on the ground were hurt.

Damage Control

"We are deeply sorry for this accident," said Brig. Gen. Mark Beeley, commander of the US 7th Air Force. Beesley visited the injured at a hospital in Seoul, Sunday. The U-2 crashed eight months after two young Korean schoolgirls were hit and killed by a US Army vehicle on maneuvers. That incident, and the acquittal of the soldiers involved, sparked angry protests among Korean students and has led to a rising tide of anti-Americanism in the South.

North Korea admitted under US diplomatic pressure in November it was researching nuclear weapons. That violates a 1994 agreement between Pyongyang and Washington. Earlier this month, North Korea ejected UN nuclear inspectors and withdrew from the worldwide Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Through it all, the government of Kim Jong-il has blamed what it called "American nuclear aggression" for its actions. Trying to take advantage of incidents involving American soldiers and South Korean civilians, North Korea called on the South to present a "united stand" against the US. South Korean officials flatly refused.

Not The End Of 'The First'

The Lockheed U-2 from the 5th Reconnaisance Squadron had just taken off Sunday from the air base at Osan. It reportedly crashed 31 miles south of Seoul, in the town of Hwasung.

Photos of the wreckage indicate the U-2 was not the historic "Dragon Lady," 68-10329 (right). That U-2S was the first ever -- having rolled off the Lockheed assembly line in 1967. A/C 329, which celebrated 20,000 logged hours in 2001, is also stationed at Osan.

FMI: www.defenselink.mil

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