S. Korean Spies Burgled Indonesia Arms Team’s Room, Chosun Says

South Korean spies broke into the hotel room of Indonesian officials visiting Seoul last week to find out what price the Southeast Asian nation may bid for weapons and trainer jets, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

Three National Intelligence Service agents broke into the Lotte Hotel room in central Seoul on Feb. 16 while the Indonesians were away to meet South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, the nation’s biggest newspaper reported in its main front page news story today. The report cited an unidentified South Korean government official, and didn’t say how the person knew the details of the case.

The presidential office doesn’t publicly comment on intelligence activities, Sohn Jie Ae, a spokeswoman for Lee’s office, said by telephone from Seoul today. An official who answered the phone at the National Intelligence Service’s public relations office in Seoul said the report is groundless, without elaborating. The official wouldn’t give his name, citing agency policy.

Police have been investigating the break-in, which was reported on Feb. 16, 13 hours after the incident happened, Chosun said. The agents were spotted by an Indonesian official, prompting them to return laptop computers they were trying to take away, Chosun said. It was unclear whether the agents had already downloaded computer data into a portable memory device, according to the report.

The Indonesian government is aware of the spy agency’s role in the break-in, the Chosun said on its website, without elaborating. The Indonesian delegates refused to let police investigate their laptops and left the country after agreeing to take no further action, Chosun said.

Michael Tene, a spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry, didn’t immediately answer calls and text messages to his mobile telephone.

South Korea wants to sell T-50 trainer jets, tanks, and missiles to Indonesia, Chosun said. It is competing against Russia to sell trainer jets to Indonesia, the report said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bomi Lim in Seoul at blim30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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