Australia and South Korea sign defense agreement as leaders meet

CANBERRA, Australia –

Australia and South Korea signed a defense deal worth $720 million on Monday as South Korean President Moon Jae-in became the first foreign leader to visit Australia since the pandemic began.

Valued at around AU$1 billion, the sale will see South Korean defense company Hanwha supply the Australian military with artillery weapons, supply vehicles and radar.

It is the largest defense contract signed between Australia and an Asian country, and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Australia and China. Australia recently announced an agreement to build nuclear-powered submarines with the cooperation of the US and UK – a move strongly condemned by China.

Mr. Moon met Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during his visit, and the two leaders agreed to upgrade the official relationship between the countries to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.”

The leaders also said they would work together to develop clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, and facilitate the supply of key minerals that Australia has in abundance.

Morrison said the new defense contract would create about 300 jobs in Australia, where a division of Hanwha operates.

“The contract we signed today speaks volumes about what we believe is the capability of the Korean defense industry,” said Morrison.

Moon said South Korea shares similar values ​​to Australia’s in terms of geopolitical prospects, but its relationship with China is also important, especially when it comes to pursuing peace with North Korea.

“Therefore, South Korea focuses on a steadfast alliance with the US and also with China,” Moon said. “We want a harmonious relationship.”

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said his government was committed to keeping the region safe and the new contract would help modernize Australia’s military.

“The main capabilities of the new vehicles are to fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counterattacks,” Dutton said. “This project will mean a significant increase in the firepower and security of Australia’s artillery capabilities.”

South Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and fourth largest export market under the free trade agreement that came into force in 2014. This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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