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South Korean president visits UAE to seek arms sales

South Korean president visits UAE to seek arms sales

South Korean President Yoon Hee-yeol was greeted by a guard of honor during his visit to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday as he looks to expand military sales here.

Yoon’s visit comes as South Korea conducts multibillion-dollar business deals and sends special forces to defend the UAE, an arrangement that drew criticism under his liberal predecessor, according to the Associated Press.

Now, however, the conservative leader appears to want to double down on those military ties.

“I think in terms of geopolitics, the situation in the Middle East is changing rapidly,” said June Park, a fellow at the Schmidt Futures International Strategy Forum. “So South Korea wants to secure some strategic partnerships and components with the UAE.”

Yoon arrived at the Qasr Al Watan palace in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who took office in May after years as the country’s de facto ruler, greeted him.

While energy-hungry South Korea does rely on the UAE for less than 10 percent of its crude supplies, Seoul has struck a series of deals far beyond oil with the country of seven emirates, which have strong ties to Abu Dhabi.

South Korea’s trade with the UAE involves billions of dollars worth of autos, materials and other goods. Before Yoon’s trip, officials described the trip as seeking to cement an already existing relationship between the two countries.

“The visit will strengthen strategic cooperation with our fraternal country, the UAE, in the four core areas of cooperation in nuclear power, energy, investment and defense,” said Kim Sung-han, minister of national security in the Yin government.

On Saturday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an anonymous presidential official as saying an arms deal was also planned.

“The atmosphere between South Korea and the UAE for security or military cooperation involving the arms industry is very mature,” the official said, according to Yonhap news agency.

South Korea has already struck a $3.5 billion deal with the UAE in 2022 to sell M-SAM, an advanced air defense system designed to intercept missiles at altitudes below 40 kilometers (25 miles).

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