Dec 13, 2021: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have signed a $717 million defense deal.
The deal worth 1 billion Australian dollars was signed Monday during Moon’s four-day visit to Canberra. The South Korean president is the first foreign leader to visit Australia since the onset of the pandemic.
Under the new defense agreement, South Korean defense company Hanwha will supply artillery, supply vehicles and radar to the Australian military. It is the largest defense agreement between Australia and an Asian country, and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Australia and China.
Australia recently announced an agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom to build nuclear-powered submarines, called AUKUS – a move strongly condemned by China.
Australian PM Scott Morrison said the new defence contract would create about 300 jobs in Australia, where a division of Hanwha operates.
“The contract that we have signed today, I think, speaks volumes about what we believe are the capabilities of the Korean defence industry,” he said.
“It’s an important further chapter in the defence industry story for Australia as we continue to build our sovereign capability and Korea is an important partner in that journey – both in our security arrangements, but also in the building of our sovereign capability in defence manufacturing.”
Moon said South Korea has the same values as Australia when it comes to its geopolitical views, adding that his visit to Canberra was “very important for Korea’s national interest and to promote peace and prosperity in the region.” But he also said that South Korea’s relations with China are important, especially when it comes to peace efforts with North Korea.
“Therefore, South Korea is focused on a strong alliance with the United States and with China,” Moon said. “We want a harmonious relationship.” The South Korean president also ruled out a US-led diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, saying he was “not considering” such a move.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said his government was committed to keeping the region safe, and that the new agreement would help modernize the Australian military. “The first capability of the new vehicles is to fire and move fast, avoiding enemy retaliation,” Dutton said. “The plan means a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australia’s artillery capability.”
South Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and fourth largest export market under a free trade agreement that has been in force since 2014. This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
During their talks, Morrison and Moon agreed to upgrade formal relations between their nations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” The leaders also said they would work together to develop clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, and to facilitate the supply of important minerals, which Australia has in abundance.
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