By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON | Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:54pm EST
(Reuters) - The Obama administration formally proposed a controversial sale of advanced spy drones to help South Korea bear more of its defense from any attack by the heavily armed North.
Seoul has requested a possible $1.2 billion sale of four Northrop Grumman Corp RQ-4 "Global Hawk" remotely piloted aircraft with enhanced surveillance capabilities, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement dated on Monday and distributed on Tuesday.
South Korea needs such systems to assume top responsibility for intelligence-gathering from the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command as scheduled in 2015, the security agency said in releasing a notice to U.S. lawmakers.
"The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will maintain adequate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and will ensure the alliance is able to monitor and deter regional threats in 2015 and beyond," the notice said.