(LEAD) S. Korea, UAE sign MOU for strategic arms industry cooperation
(ATTN: UPDATES with more info, details from 6th para)
SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on "strategic" defense industry cooperation, Seoul's arms procurement agency said Monday in a sign of deepening bilateral security ties.
Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the UAE's Tawazun Council in charge of the country's arms procurement inked the MOU in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, in the presence of President Yoon Suk Yeol and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who met for a summit in the country.
Under the pact, the two sides will continue efforts for joint investment, research and technological development to further develop bilateral cooperation in the arms industry, it said.
"This MOU solidifies the 'special strategic partnership' between South Korea and the UAE, and is expected to contribute to enhancing substantive defense industry cooperation between the respective defense acquisition agencies," it said.
Based on the trust between the two sides, DAPA added that it expects to expand Seoul's efforts to export air defense systems.
The two countries also signed a separate MOU on bilateral cooperation in the development of a multirole transport aircraft.
The two MOUs could bode well for Seoul's efforts to strengthen a foothold in the Middle Eastern market.
Some observers raised the possibility of the UAE becoming a potential buyer of South Korea's homegrown KF-21 Boramae fighter jet under development, as the country has been seeking to secure advanced warplanes to replace its aging fleet.
"Now that the cooperation arrangements have been signed, the assumption has emerged that the two countries' cooperation could possibly extend to one related to the KF-21 project," an industry source said on condition of anonymity.
K2 battle tanks have also been mentioned as a potential export item for the UAE.
The UAE has recently emerged as a crucial arms industry cooperation partner for Korea.
In January last year, the UAE signed a deal to purchase the Cheongung II mid-range surface-to-air missile system, a core element of South Korea's multilayered anti-missile program. Cheongung means heaven's bow in Korean.
The UAE has also been running the South Korean-made Chunmoo multiple launch rocket systems, known to have been rolled out in the country under a 2017 supply deal. Chunmoo means covering the sky in Korean.
South Korean Army Chief of Staff Gen. Park Jeong-hwan visited a Chunmoo operation site in the UAE last month, in an apparent show of Seoul's desire for closer defense cooperation.
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