UAE president visits South Korea with defence and energy on agenda

  • World
  • Tuesday, 28 May 2024

FILE PHOTO: UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, where his plane was met by an honorary escort of four fighter jets before he landed for his first state visit to Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

Defence industry cooperation, business and investment, and energy initiatives are on the agenda for a summit scheduled for Wednesday with President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, which has become one of the world's biggest arms exporters.

The two will discuss deepening their "special strategic partnership," Yoon's office said in a statement.

Four F-15K Air Force fighter jets escorted Sheikh Mohamed's plane as it entered the South Korean defence identification zone and landed at a military airfield just south of the capital, Seoul, Yoon's office said.

Sheikh Mohammed is reciprocating after Yoon's state visit to Abu Dhabi early last year, when the UAE pledged $30 billion in investment in South Korean businesses in areas spanning nuclear power, defence, hydrogen and solar energy.

He met on Tuesday the leaders of some of South Korea's top business conglomerates including Jay Y. Lee of Samsung Electronics, SK Group's Chey Tae-won and E.S. Chung of Hyundai Motor Group.

South Korea already has deep business ties with the UAE going back more than a decade, having previously won contracts to build nuclear reactors in the Gulf state.

The country has also signed massive defence contracts as part of plans to become the world's fourth-largest defence exporter by 2027. Recent deals include one with Poland, which is seeking to bolster its defences as a close neighbour of Ukraine, which is at war with Russia.

Earlier this year, South Korea also reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to expand defence cooperation with a view to increase arms sales in the region.

South Korea's weapons exports to the Middle East grew nearly tenfold between 2013 and 2022, according to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Market analysts cited the UAE state visit for driving up South Korean defence stocks on Tuesday, with Hanwha Aerospace and LIG Nex1 rising more than 5% and Korea Aerospace Industries climbing 7.1%.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Ed Davies)

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