WASHINGTON - The US Defense Department on Wednesday said it has approved the sale of either the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth fighter or Boeing Co's F-15 Silent Eagle fighter to South Korea, which is expected to announce the winner of a 60-jet competition later this year.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military sales, notified US lawmakers last Friday about the possible sales to South Korea as tensions continued to mount with North Korea, saying that US warplanes would help Seoul "deter aggression in the region."
It issued two separate announcements on Wednesday, saying it had notified Congress about the possible sales of the two competing fighter jets, as well as radars, electronic warfare systems and other equipment.
Industry officials said the mandatory congressional notification process began before the recent flare-up in tensions with North Korea, but the timing of the Pentagon's announcement came a day after Pyongyang's surprise announcement that it would restart a long-shuttered nuclear reactor.
The F-35, F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon are locked in competition to supply South Korea with 60 fighter planes. Industry sources and US government officials expect Seoul to announce its decision between June and November.
Eurofighter is built by EADS, Finmeccanica SpA and BAE Systems.