S Korean pilots killed in spy plane crash

2010-11-12 18:12

Seoul - A spy aircraft crashed on Friday during routine training and its two pilots were killed in the second military accident to strike South Korea while it hosted the summit of the Group of 20 major economies, an air force official said.

South Korea was on heightened alert for possible provocations by communist neighbour North Korea during the two-day G-20 summit, but there was no indication of the North's involvement in either the aircraft accident or the sinking on Thursday of a 150 ton naval vessel.

The RF-4C reconnaissance aircraft hit a mountain in Imsil, 300km south of Seoul, about 40 minutes after taking off from a base in Suwon, just south of Seoul, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing internal policy.

The pilots' bodies were found at the mountain, said the official, adding no civilians were hurt on the ground.

The air force temporarily grounded all aircraft except those needed for essential patrol missions and was investigating the cause of the crash, the official said.

South Korea operates about 20 secondhand RF-4C spy aircraft purchased from the US, according to South Korea's air force.

The crash came a day after a South Korean navy ship sank after colliding with a larger fishing boat in waters northwest of the southern resort island of Jeju.

The G-20 summit, which wrapped up on Friday in Seoul, placed a spotlight on security because North Korea has a history of acting provocatively when world attention is focused on South Korea.

The Korean peninsula officially remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.