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South Korea, UK bolster defence industrial ties

South Korea and the United Kingdom have progressed efforts to collaborate on defence equipment and technologies, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) in Seoul said on 8 June.

The development comes against a background of expanding UK efforts to enhance defence industrial alliances with countries in the Asia-Pacific, and South Korea's strategy to boost self-reliance through the acquisition of know-how and technologies from military suppliers.

DAPA said in a press release that the two countries' latest defence industry committee – held in Busan – focused on topics including the operation of weapons systems, future acquisition requirements, quality assurance, joint research and development (R&D) opportunities, and defence offsets.

The press release added, “The UK is a leading country in the defence sector, and has high-level technologies to develop advanced weapons systems. The UK is a key partner country [for South Korea] in various forms of co-operation such as joint research and development and technology exchanges.”

DAPA said six defence firms representing each country attended the talks, with the aim to showcase their capability, and to “explore opportunities for collaboration”.

In 2020 South Korea and the UK signed an agreement to support joint military R&D. The ‘memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence R&D principles' provides a basis for defence science and technology co-operation through exchanges of information and joint projects.

In September 2019 the two countries also signed a free trade agreement allowing bilateral trade links to be maintained following the UK's exit from the European Union.

The biggest UK defence sale to South Korea in recent years was the 2016 contract – worth about USD560 million – to supply eight UK-made Leonardo AW159 Wildcat anti-submarine helicopters to the Republic of Korea Navy.

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