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    SOUTH KOREA TO BUY RUSSIAN ARMOR

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    TOKYO, MARCH 9 (RIA-NOVOSTI) - South Korea plans to buy Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers for its land forces before the year is out. This concerns combat hardware, which was received by Seoul to the account of former Soviet debts (i.e. South Korean loans), reports South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

    About 30 armored vehicles were received from Russia since 1996; plans were in place to use them for combat-training purposes, Yonhap goes on to say. However, Seoul eventually appreciated the advantages of Russian combat hardware, deciding to equip its military formations, which had relied heavily on US weaponry until now.

    Russia's T-80-U main battle tanks and BMP-3 armored personnel carriers will be serving with first-line units along the border with North Korea, which is perceived as a theoretical enemy by South Korea, Yonhap sources claim.

    For its own part, North Korea wields T-62 main battle tanks and BMP-1 armored personnel carriers, which were also delivered by Russia, South Korea's military say. There exists a 2-3-fold generation gap between South Korean and North Korean equipment.

    In 1991 South Korea loaned $1.47 billion to the former USSR, what with Russia pledging to repay such debts after the USSR's demise.

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