(ATTN: ADDS defense talks in paras 12-13, photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) -- A large-scale biennial international aerospace and defense expo opened in South Korea on Tuesday, featuring cutting-edge weapons and serving as a venue for global defense diplomacy and exchanges of the latest defense technologies.
The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) kicked off at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, south of Seoul, earlier in the day to run until Sunday.
This year's exhibition, the 12th of its kind, brought together around 430 defense companies from 34 countries, the most ever for the event, with local and international defense firms setting up more than 1,700 booths to promote their products, according to the defense ministry.
"South Korea produces and exports a variety of the latest weapons systems for land and air power ... as well as maritime assets such as Aegis-equipped destroyers and submarines, and is acknowledged for its high level of technologies," Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said in his congratulatory remarks.
"Through the Seoul ADEX 2019, we seek to actively share our experiences and know-how ... to make the event a venue for mutual exchanges and cooperation," he added.
During the opening ceremony, South Korea's F-35A stealth fighters made air demonstrations, and a light armed helicopter (LAH) under development conducted its first flying display.
South Korea also unveiled a mock-up of its KF-X jet for the first time, an envisioned indigenous cutting-edge fighter aircraft under the project to develop the homegrown fighter to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.
"Based upon high-level technologies that have been accumulated so far, South Korea has been pushing to develop a KF-X fighter aircraft without a hitch with a goal to complete the project in 2026," Jeong noted.
At the venue, various types of aircraft and high-profile weapons systems are on display.
Foreign assets include Boeing's AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, Saab's maritime patrol aircraft and Airbus' A400M Atlas airlifter, as well as a variety of U.S. military weapons, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotankers tanker plane and MQ-1 Predator drone, according to ministry officials.
The Air Force's Black Eagles flight team and several civilian teams from abroad, including the "Maxx-G" from Australia, also showed off acrobatic displays.
On the sidelines, Jeong held bilateral meetings with chief delegates from Saudi Arabia, Poland, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates where he discussed ways to boost cooperation in their defense and arms industry fields.
More high-level bilateral meetings are to take place during the event period, according to the ministry.
Various seminars are also planned to be attended by more than 95 defense ministers, military leaders and experts from 53 countries, during which they will launch active defense diplomacy and have business consultations regarding their military procurement projects, according to the ministry.
The biennial event, which aims to promote the country's aerospace and defense firms as well as to enhance exchanges of global technologies, was first launched in 1996 as the Seoul Air Show and was expanded to incorporate the exhibition of ground-based military assets in 2009.
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