(ATTN: UPDATES with talks between Moon, UAE prime minister in first 11 paras; CHANGES headline)
By Kim Deok-hyun
DUBAI, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea signed a preliminary deal with the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to sell Seoul's mid-range surface-to-air missiles to the Gulf nation, in the latest sign of deepening defense cooperation between the two nations.
The deal was signed after Moon held talks with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai earlier in the day, the presidential office said without providing further details, including the value of the memorandum of understanding.
But media reports have indicated that the deal is likely to reach US$3.5 billion.
Last November, the UAE's defense ministry announced that it plans to acquire the missiles.
Moon extended his gratitude to the UAE's prime minister for announcing the plan, his office said.
The M-SAM system, called Cheongung II, is a core element of South Korea's multi-layered anti-missile program. Cheongung, means heaven's bow in Korean.
Employing "hit-to-kill" technology, the missile is designed to intercept hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 kilometers.
Since 2011, South Korean troops of the Akh unit, which means "brother" in Arabic, have been on a mission in the UAE to train the Gulf nation's service members and protect Korean nationals in emergencies.
During the talks, Moon and the UAE prime minister discussed ways to expand cooperation in infrastructure, efforts to tackle climate change and space. The two leaders also discussed Korea's bid to host the 2030 Expo.
Before holding the talks, Moon paid a visit to a "Day of Korea" ceremony at the Expo 2020 Dubai.
In Dubai, Moon stepped up South Korea's campaign to host the Expo in the nation's southeastern port city of Busan in 2030.
Earlier in the day, Moon, who is in Dubai for a three-day visit as part of his weeklong trip to the Middle East, attended a business forum.
Moon told the forum that South Korea will speed up cooperation with the UAE in key eco-friendly technologies for the hydrogen economy, as Seoul seeks to expand the horizons of energy cooperation with the Persian Gulf nation.
Since Korea won a US$20 billion contract in 2009 to construct four nuclear reactors in Barakah, UAE, the two nations have been seeking to expand cooperation in other sectors.
"Korea and the UAE have made many achievements throughout deeper cooperation in traditional energy sectors, including oil and nuclear power plants," Moon told the forum.
Korea and the UAE will "expand energy cooperation into the hydrogen sector, a core energy resource in the age of carbon neutrality," Moon said.
The resource-rich UAE has the potential to produce a so-called blue hydrogen, which is derived from natural gas, Moon said, adding that Korea boasts technological prowess in hydrogen-powered cars, hydrogen fueling stations and fuel cells.
If Korea and the UAE jointly bolster investment and supply chains in the hydrogen sector, Moon said the two nations will further grow together.
"The hydrogen industry is a key for carbon neutrality," Moon said. "Carbon neutrality is obviously a difficult process, but if the two nations promote the hydrogen industry through solidarity and cooperation, they will have new opportunities in the challenge."
Since 2019, Korea has been building a hydrogen-powered public transportation system in the UAE, Moon said.
Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels as automobiles running on the resource only create water in the process of generating power. Hydrogen can be produced as a by-product of industrial facilities, including petrochemical plants as well.
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