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Defense minister back from Middle East with $3.2b deal

Feb. 7, 2024 - 17:19 By Kim Arin
Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman Al Saud sign a memorandum of understanding on mid- to long-term defense cooperation between South Korea and Saudi Arabia at the World Defense Exhibition exhibition hall in Saudi Arabia. (Ministry of National Defense)

Shin Won-sik, South Korea’s Minister of National Defense, wrapped up his three-country Middle East trip with large defense industry deals.

Shin struck a deal to export some $3.2 billion worth of ballistic missile interceptor system known as Cheongung II in a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Khalid bin Salman Al Saud.

The deal -- first floated about a month after President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to Saudi Arabia in October last year -- was finalized at the meeting of the defense heads of the two countries, according to the ministry in Seoul.

Following Yoon’s Saudi Arabia trip, Kim Tae-hyo, the deputy national security director at the presidential office, told reporters that the discussions on “large-scale” cooperation in defense industries with the Saudis “have entered the final stages.”

At the second World Defense Show in Riyadh, Shin said that since the Yoon administration took office in May 2022, South Korea has been making about $15 billion worth of exports of defense articles and services.

“We are striving to become one of the major defense industry exporters globally by diversifying our weapons systems and export destinations,” he said.

As the first South Korean defense head, Shin met with Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, the Qatari Minister of State for Defence Affairs, on Monday. The two signed a memorandum of understanding for holding ministerial-level talks regularly, to enhance partnerships in defense industries.