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US Spy Plane Crashes in South Korea - 2003-01-26


A U.S. military reconnaissance jet crashes outside Seoul, South Korea, injuring three people on the ground. Steve Herman reports the pilot ejected from the aircraft and is being treated in a hospital for injuries.

A U-2 spy plane went down about 50 kilometers south of the capital of Seoul, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

Early Korean media reports say three farmers were injured, but the American pilot ejected from the aircraft. The crash occurred in the town of Hwasung where a house and automobile repair shop caught fire after the jet exploded.

U.S. military officials in Asia say they had no immediate information, although Korean domestic media reports say American and South Korean authorities are at the scene of the crash.

The U-2 is believed to have taken off from the U.S. military's Osan Air Base, not far from the crash site.

The high altitude jets are used to conduct surveillance of communist North Korea. The aircraft is considered ideal for intelligence gathering because it can hover above 20,000 meters for several hours at a time.

The crash comes at a time when many South Koreans are demanding a reduction or the removal of American forces from the Korean peninsula. This incident, with resulting civilian injuries and property damage, may further anti-base sentiments. Nearly 40,000 American troops are based in South Korea, which has been divided from the North since the Korean War of the early 1950s.

Tension between the United States and North Korea has escalated to crisis level in recent months after Pyongyang admitted to an illegal nuclear weapons development program.

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