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JCS chairman makes first visit to Saudi to enhance military cooperation


South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman will make his first visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to boost military exchange and defense industrial cooperation and attend the country’s inaugural international defense exhibition.

JCS chairman Gen. Won In-choul was invited by Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili for the four-day trip, the South Korean military said in a statement.

This marks the first time that a South Korean JCS chairman makes an official visit to Saudi Arabia, an official at the JCS confirmed to The Korea Herald.

Gen. Won is scheduled to meet Gen. Al-Ruwaili and other senior military officials to “discuss ways to vitalize military exchanges and strengthen cooperation in the defense industry,” according to South Korea’s JCS.

Both sides will also share views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the surrounding region.

Seoul and Riyadh have sought to enhance bilateral cooperation in the defense and arms industry. The two countries also held a session of a high-level defense cooperation committee in 2019 and 2021, as part of efforts to implement their military agreement.

South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed a pact in February 2013 to boost defense cooperation in a wide range of issues, including the arms industry, logistics support, military exercise and training.

In September 2017, the two countries also signed a General Security of Military Information Agreement or GSOMIA, which is an intelligence-sharing pact. 

Inaugural defense expo in Riyadh
The courtesy call comes after Gen. Al-Ruwaili attended the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition in South Korea last October.

During the visit, Gen. Won will also attend the 2022 World Defense Show, an international defense exhibition hosted by Saudi Arabia for the first time, along with South Korean Minister of Defense Acquisition Kang Eun-ho.

The World Defense Show is scheduled to be held between Sunday and Wednesday in Riyadh with the participation of approximately 800 companies from 45 countries, including 27 South Korean defense contractors such as Hanhwa and LIG Nex1.

“JCS Chairman Won In-choul … will actively engage in military diplomacy to support the exports of arms exports,” a JCS statement said, adding he will personally promote the “superiority of the country’s weapons system” at the global defense expo.

Minister Kang will also speak about the excellence of homegrown munitions and discuss the major potential arms export deals.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has taken the initiative to boost arms sales and diversify and expand into regions including the Middle East, Europe, Oceania, and Africa by making official visits to the countries.

South Korea’s arms exports surpassed $7 billion last year, which doubled its previous best sales record. For instance, Australia signed a defense contract worth 1 billion Australian dollars ($736 million) with Hanwha Defense to procure 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armored ammunition resupply vehicles last December.

This year, South Korea inked a deal to export 4 trillion won ($3.32 billion) worth of Cheongung II or the M-SAM missile defense system to the United Arab Emirates, marking the country’s biggest-ever arms deal.

Additionally, Hanwha Defense in February signed the largest contract to export K-9 self-propelled howitzers and other support vehicles to Egypt, the eighth importer of the weapons system.

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)





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