|08SEOUL362||2008-02-25 08:07:00||SECRET//NOFORN||Embassy Seoul|
VZCZCXYZ0001 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHUL #0362 0560807 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 250807Z FEB 08 FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8623 INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0977 RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1757 RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SEOUL 000362
1. (U) This is an action request. Please see Para 6.
2. (S/NF) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's
(MOFAT) Divisions of Disarmament and Nonproliferation, and
Security and Counter-Terrorism Cooperation took immediate
action following our reftel demarche on February 23.
Non-proliferation Division Director Lee Jang-keun confirmed
the location of the subject aircraft with civil aviation
officials and placed a temporary hold action on the planes
that day. Subsequently, Lee requested our demarche be
formally presented in the form of a diplomatic note and
sought more specific USG views on how to facilitate the U.S.
Department of Commerce redelivery order in the event of the
Balli Group's (BG) non-compliance.
3. (S/NF) Upon receipt of the requested diplomatic note on
February 25, Lee requested additional information,
--How long should the ROKG hold the aircraft? (A temporary
hold can be easily effected on safety grounds, but such a
hold cannot be placed indefinitely, Lee noted.)
--Has BG's Houston office responded to the Dept. of
Commerce's redelivery order?
--Confirmation that the aircraft in question are
U.S.-registered. (The aircraft tail numbers indicate they
were originally registered by United Airlines in the U.S.)
--Confirmation that we are seeking the British Government's
ccoperation in facilitating the redelivery order since the
aircraft are owned by a British-based company, and, if so,
what is the response?
4. (S/NF) Lee verified the two aircraft at Incheon (tail
nos. N192UA and N106UA) arrived in Korea in January 2006 and
September 2007, respectively, and, after the recent
completion of necessary overhauls, are both ready to fly.
The other aircraft at Busan's Kimhae airport (tail no.
N185UA) arrived in Korea in April 2007 and is still under
repair. BG has yet to pay the maintenance bills for the
first two aircraft and appears to be facing difficulties in
leasing them. Lee said BG is reportedly seeking a Greek
airline (and not an Iranian) partner for the aircraft at this
time, but no information is available on the identity of
these Greek prospects.
5. (S/NF) Lee stressed that the ROKG had the statutory
authority to hold the aircraft for a period of time but had
limited authority to facilitate a U.S. Commerce redelivery
order. Lee added that the ROKG had no precedents for
redirecting aircraft to another country and thus was
concerned whether there was a legal basis for taking such
extraordinary action. He sought our views on the "law
enforcement alternatives" that the USG was currently
considering in this case.
6. (S/NF) ACTION REQUESTED: Post would appreciate responses
to the four questions in para (3) above and any additional
guidance to help the ROKG assess the legal ramifications of
this case, in the event of BG's non-compliance with
Commerce's redelivery order.