World Economy

S. Korea President Travels to UAE, Seeks Arms Sales

S. Korea President Travels to UAE, Seeks Arms Sales
S. Korea President Travels to UAE, Seeks Arms Sales

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol received an honor guard welcome Sunday on a trip to the United Arab Emirates as he hopes to expand its military sales here.

Yoon's visit comes as South Korea conducts business deals worth billions of dollars and stations special forces troops to defend the UAE, an arrangement that drew criticism under his liberal predecessor, AP reported.

Now, however, it appears the conservative leader wants to double down on those military links.

“I think that the situation in the Middle East is changing very rapidly when it comes to geopolitics,” said June Park, a fellow with the International Strategy Forum at Schmidt Futures. “So Korea wants to make sure some of the strategic partnerships and the components ... with the UAE.”

Yoon arrived at Qasr Al Watan palace in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. He was greeted by Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who took office in May after serving as the country's de facto ruler for years.

While energy-hungry South Korea does rely on the Emirates for just under 10% of its crude oil supply, Seoul has struck a series of deals far beyond oil with this nation of seven sheikhdoms that closely tie the nation to Abu Dhabi.

South Korea's trade with the UAE is into billions of dollars worth of cars, materials, and other goods. Before Yoon's trip, officials described the visit as seeking to solidify the ties already between the two countries.

“This visit will strengthen strategic cooperation with our brother country UAE in the four core cooperative sectors of nuclear power, energy, investment, and defense,” said Kim Sung-han, director of national security in Yoon's government.

On Saturday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an anonymous presidential official as also saying that an arms deal was planned.

“The atmosphere is extremely ripe for security or military cooperation between South Korea and the UAE involving the arms industry,” the official said, according to Yonhap.

Already, South Korea reached a $3.5 billion deal with the UAE in 2022 to sell the M-SAM, an advanced air defense system designed to intercept missiles at altitudes below 40 kilometers (25 miles).


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