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UK, South Korea deepen defence ties

South Korea and the United Kingdom have pledged to expand defence co-operation, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Seoul has announced.

The MND said on 6 January that South Korean Defense Minister General Suh Wook discussed ways to deepen the bilateral defence relationship with his UK counterpart Ben Wallace during a phone call on the same day.

The MND said the effort was part of the UK’s strategy to expand defence ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region following its exit from the European Union.

“Britain is seeking to expand co-operation with Asian countries, including South Korea - in preparation for the post-Brexit era,” said the MND, citing Wallace.

According to the MND, the two ministers agreed to expand bilateral defence talks in the near future and to organise a UK defence delegation visit to South Korea during the first half of 2021. They also outlined co-operation in relation to UK peacekeeping missions.

In February 2020 South Korea and the UK also signed an agreement to support joint research and development (R&D) in the defence sector. Under this accord, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) in Seoul said that 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.

While the MOU supports government-level engagement on defence R&D, DAPA said the agreement is also expected to give opportunities for South Korean companies to participate in international R&D 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 EU.

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