Saudi Arabian and South Korean government officials are in “the final stage of talks” for sizeable defense deals, Seoul’s presidential office said Monday.
During a press briefing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Kim Tae-hyo, the First Deputy Director of National Security, emphasized the growing importance of the defense industry in their relationship, specifically highlighting discussions about air defense systems and firepower arms.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to Saudi Arabia is a crucial part of these negotiations. During the visit, President Yoon met with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman to explore opportunities for collaboration in various sectors, including construction, energy, emerging technologies, and defense industries.
Kim Tae-hyo expressed South Korea’s commitment to enhancing Saudi Arabia’s national defense capabilities with advanced Korean weapons systems. This collaboration aims to generate momentum in expanding South Korea’s defense industry markets.
Details about these potential defense deals are currently confidential. An official at the presidential office revealed that they are at the contract-finalization stage, emphasizing that the scale and value of the agreements are substantial. They also noted that security threats near Saudi Arabia contribute to the sensitivity of disclosing the specifics of these deals. Revealing information about the weapon systems and their value could affect the ability of other nations to assess the quantity of units that Saudi Arabia is procuring.
One of the key defense systems under consideration is Korea’s Cheongung-II surface-to-air missile defense system, designed to intercept air strikes, particularly those launched by Yemen’s Houthi Rebels. During Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit to Seoul in November, he expressed interest in the Cheongung-II system, a sentiment shared by Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman during his visit to South Korea in March.
The Cheongung-II system has garnered attention from Middle Eastern countries, notably following a $3.17 billion deal signed by South Korean companies LIG Nex1, Hanwha System, and Hanwha Defense for exporting Cheongung-II systems to the United Arab Emirates.
Kim Tae-hyo also pointed out that after reaching a record-high of $17.3 billion in defense exports last year, South Korea’s weapon systems are attracting increased interest from Europe, the Middle East, and other regions. The presidential office is hopeful that President Yoon’s visit will serve as a catalyst for expanding the scale of South Korea’s defense export market.
During the summit between President Yoon and Crown Prince Mohammed, the leaders exchanged opinions on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. While the details of their discussions remain undisclosed, the South Korean government has expressed its concern for humanitarian issues related to the conflict. The official stance is to advocate for existing international rules and laws while considering support options, primarily centered on humanitarian concerns. However, South Korea does not plan to intervene militarily, politically, or take a specific stance directly on the issue at this time.