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S. Korea to buy Apache Guardian helicopters


South Korea said on Wednesday it had agreed to buy a fleet of US Apache attack helicopters in a deal with reported to be worth $1.5 billion, at a time of heightened tensions with the North.

The Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) said it would acquire 36 of the AH-64E Apache Guardian choppers from Boeing over a three-year period from 2016.

The DAPA said the chopper has the ability to destroy tanks and armoured vehicles, it said, adding that it would strengthen the South's defences against provocation from the North.

The decision comes as the Korean peninsula remains in a state of heightened military tension with the North threatening "thermo-nuclear war", angered by fresh UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military exercises.

The agency declined to give prices saying only the deal includes the transfer of technology but Yonhap news agency said the project would cost a total of 1.8 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

South Korea will be the fourth country to buy the four-blade, twin-engine helicopter after the United States, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, Yonhap said.

The chopper will replace a fleet of AH-1 Cobra helicopters that have been in service for decades in South Korea, DAPA officials said.