After going back and forth on the purchase for six years, South Korea will plop down $1.2 billion on four high altitude Global Hawk surveillance drones from the US.

The deal requires approval from the American Congress, which was reluctant in years past, but is likely to go through this time due to increased provocations from the North, as well as heavy lobbying from Northrop-Grumman over US military budget cuts putting a crimp in their bottom line.

Depending on who you ask, the reason prior sales never went through was either South Korean sticker shock over the steep price or, according to Defense Industry Daily, American worries that the ROK would reverse-engineer the highly guarded technology.

Secrets are one issue that is not discussed openly, because of the sensitivities around telling a country that it cannot be trusted with secrets – even when that belief is well founded…Reports in November 2011 that South Korea engaged in attempts to reverse-engineer American military technologies have reportedly stalled American interest in a Global Hawk sale, and may do wider damage, if true.

Defense Industry Daily also cited earlier snags in the purchase on the deterioration in US-Korean relations under the Roh Mu-hyun administration as well as a 2008 survey of ROK military cadets in which 34% polled viewed America as South Korea’s “main enemy.”

According to the Washington Post, arms-control advocates are expressing fears that an approved sale will create an arms race in the region as well as give diplomatic cover for China and Russia to increase military exports.

I guess the advocates dismiss the recent North Korean missile launch and the ongoing nuclear weapons program as part of an arms-race?