S. Korea, Saudi Arabia in final-stage talks over large-scale defense industry cooperation

October 23, 2023

South Korea and Saudi Arabia are in the final stage of talks over large-scale defense industry cooperation in areas including antiaircraft defense systems and firearms, a South Korean presidential official said Sunday.

Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo made the revelation to reporters while accompanying South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on a four-day state visit to Saudi Arabia.

“The defense industry is emerging as a blue ocean in our cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Large-scale defense industry cooperation discussions are in the final stage, in various areas such as antiaircraft defense systems and firearms.”

Kim said the two sides are discussing defense industry cooperation programs that are not one-off, but “long-term and systematic.”

“We intend to cooperate so that our weapons systems using our excellent defense industry technologies help strengthen Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities, and this will serve as a strong force for further expanding our achievements in defense industry exports,” he said, noting that South Korea’s defense industry exports reached an all-time high of US$17.3 billion last year.

Earlier in the day, Yoon held a summit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the two exchanged views on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to Kim.

“They confirmed their consensus on the need to stop the humanitarian situation from worsening, and (Yoon) said the Republic of Korea will fulfill the role needed and contribute to regional stability and the restoration of peace,” Kim said.

He added that the two sides agreed to issue a joint statement summarizing their cooperation across all sectors and outlining its future direction, and are currently finalizing the text.