South Korea has signed a preliminary deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to sell Seoul’s mid-range surface-to-air missiles worth 4 trillion won ($3.36 billion), as both countries seek to strengthen cooperation, according to local media outlets.
Seoul is set to export its Cheongung II missile system to the UAE in what is believed to be its largest export deal, which was signed on Jan. 16 after President Moon Jae-in met with Emirati Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai earlier in the day, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The deal comes two months after the Emirati Ministry of Defense wrote on Twitter that it planned to buy South Korea’s M-SAM, another name for the Cheongung II, saying that the missile system would “constitute a qualitative addition to the capabilities of the national air defense.”
Maktoum posted photos of the meeting on Twitter on Jan. 16 and said his country seeks a “comprehensive strategic economic partnership” with South Korea, referring to the UAE as Seoul’s top regional trade partner.
According to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Hanwha Defense, Hanwha Systems, and LIG Nex1 had each exchanged contracts with the UAE for the acquisition of Cheongung II in the presence of both leaders.
Minister of Defense Acquisition and DAPA chief Kang Eun-ho said the Cheongung II is an advanced air defense system designed to intercept hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 kilometers (25 miles) and has “hit-to-kill” technology, the Korean Times reported.
“While Cheongung was developed to intercept aircraft, Chenogung-II is capable of intercepting both aircraft and ballistic missiles,” Kang told reporters. “I can proudly assure the capability of the system.”
Apart from the missile system deal, South Korea signed several other agreements with the UAE to bolster their bilateral defense cooperation.
“Moon also stressed the two efforts for reciprocal defense cooperation, which results in joint research, development, manufacturing in the UAE, and joint export to third countries,” presidential spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee said.
The two countries have strengthened their defense cooperation over the past decade, with South Korean elite special forces even traveling to the UAE to train Emirati troops in an unprecedented years-long deployment for the Asian country.
The UAE has hosted hundreds of North Korean laborers in past years who provide a key revenue stream for Pyongyang. But under pressure to enforce U.S.-led sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear program, Abu Dhabi has recently moved to choke off the network and stopped renewing North Korean work visas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.