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US says reports of spy plane crash in S.Korea wrong
Updated: 2004-07-09 09:31

The U.S. military said on Friday South Korean media had wrongly reported that an American U-2 spy plane had crashed.

The local media later issued retractions of their reports that the surveillance plane went down on Friday morning in Kyonggi province south of Seoul.

"We have no reports of an incident involving an aircraft," a U.S. Air Force spokesman told Reuters.

"Our operations folks say all our aircraft are accounted for," he said.

Money Today online news agency and Yonhap news agency issued the reports about a crash but a spokesman for the Combined Forces Command of the U.S. and South Korean military said senior officers met and concluded the reports were wrong.

Yonhap said in its retraction the mistake stemmed from a misunderstanding in communications between the South Korean military and the U.S. forces after reporters had asked South Korean authorities about rumors of a plane crash.

The United States has 37,500 troops based in South Korea to bolster the South's 650,000-strong military and act as a deterrent to North Korea, whose military totals more than one million personnel.

The United States has maintained a large force in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Although the U.S. military does not reveal details of its air surveillance operations, about a dozen American and South Korean spy planes take turns maintaining a continuous watch on North Korea, sources familiar with the operations said.

Two-thirds of the North's military are deployed in forward positions near the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that bisects the Korean peninsula.

The Stalinist North and the capitalist South are technically in a state of war, because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice that has never been replaced by a peace treaty.

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