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THE WORLD

U.S. Reconnaissance Aircraft Crashes in South Korea; 3 Hurt

January 26, 2003|From Times Wire Services

SEOUL — A U.S. military reconnaissance plane crashed in South Korea today, the South Korean Defense Ministry said. Media reports said three people on the ground were injured, and that an American pilot ejected safely.

"A U-2 reconnaissance plane of the U.S. military has crashed," a ministry spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

"We have no further details, including how many were on the plane or why it crashed," the spokesman said.

The plane crashed in Hwasung, about 30 miles south of Seoul, he said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said three people on the ground were injured by the crash, which caused fires at a one-story house and an auto repair shop.

A crew member ejected before the crash, all-news cable television station YTN reported. Korean Broadcasting System said the aircraft was believed to have taken off from a U.S. airbase in Osan, not far from the crash site.

Lee Ferguson, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said she could not immediately confirm the report.

The U-2 operates at an altitude of more than 70,000 feet, beyond the range of most surface-to-air missiles. North Korea frequently complains that U-2 and other U.S. military planes conduct surveillance of the communist country.

The United States keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea, which shares the world's most heavily militarized border with North Korea.

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