|President Yoon Suk-yeol listens to a speech during a summit between NATO member countries and partner nations at the IFEMA Convention Center in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Yonhap|
Presidential office optimistic about summit outcomes
By Nam Hyun-woo
MADRID ― A possible deal to export weapons to Poland could be President Yoon Suk-yeol's first achievement in his diplomatic efforts to promote South Korean industries in Europe, with the presidential office saying "a tangible outcome will likely come in the near future."
During a press conference on Wednesday (local time), Choi Sang-mok, the senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, said "there was a profound discussion" between President Yoon and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, during their summit earlier in the day, thus he is "expecting the first outcome of Yoon's sales diplomacy."
Starting Tuesday, Yoon held a series of summits with European countries on the sidelines of the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain, with the goal of improving South Korea's economic and strategic presence for its European partners.
The summit took place after Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak visited South Korea on May 30 to inspect Seoul's domestically developed weapon systems, including the FA-50 light combat aircraft, the K2 tank, the K9 howitzer and the Redback infantry fighting vehicle.
At the time, the minister expressed intent to buy 48 FA-50s worth a total 2 trillion won ($1.55 billion), according to media reports, and the country's armament agency said the aircraft was being considered as a platform for strengthening the Polish Air Force.
Though the presidential office declined to disclose further details on a potential deal with Poland because the two sides are still in negotiations, an official said, "There will be a tangible outcome in the near future."
Choi said there were also discussions over arms exports during Yoon's summit with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday, and the Yoon government will make an aggressive sales pitch with the goal of "joining the world's top 3 or top 4 powerhouses in the defense industry."
Along with arms exports, Choi said there have been outcomes in nuclear power during Yoon's summits.
According to Choi, Yoon handed over a booklet on South Korea's nuclear energy industry to the Polish president while promoting the country's capability during their summit. Choi noted that Yoon would make a similar pitch during a summit with Czech officials on Thursday.
Both Poland and the Czech Republic are exploring suppliers for their nuclear power plant plans, and South Korean companies are making bids for those lucrative projects. As part of the bids, nine MOUs were signed between private firms of South Korea and the Czech Republic on Tuesday and nine others are scheduled to be signed between firms of South Korea and Poland on Thursday.
|President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with Polish President Andrzej Duda during their summit on the sidelines of the 2022 NATO Summit at the IFEMA Convention Center in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). Yonhap|
Including those outcomes, the presidential office said "goals have been accomplished" in Yoon's attendance at the summit, which was his first overseas trip as president.
"We had three concepts while preparing Yoon's NATO summit attendance: the coalition for value and rules, the stronger cooperation in emerging security and the establishment of a global network," Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of the National Security Office, said during a press conference.
"And we believe we accomplished those goals far better than our earlier expectations."
During the summits, Yoon has stressed that the issue of regional security is now being amplified as a global issue in the current international order. Thus, a coalition based on common values and international rules is important for overcoming various challenges. His attendance at the NATO event showed that South Korea has the capability to stand together with other countries sharing the values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Regarding the emerging issue of security, Kim said the summits played their role in enhancing partnerships between South Korea and European countries in the fields of semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries and nuclear power. Also, Yoon met more than 30 leaders of countries participating in the NATO Summit, and received invitations from many of them, which will be the foundation for Yoon's diplomacy for the next five years.
On Wednesday alone, Yoon had summits or meetings with the leaders of the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Poland, the U.S., France and Denmark.
During a summit with French President Emmanuel Macron, Yoon discussed bilateral cooperation on nuclear power and in space. With Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Yoon focused on renewable energy technologies, such as off-shore wind power.
|President Yoon Suk-yeol talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during their summit on the sidelines of the 2022 NATO Summit at the IFEMA Convention Center in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday (local time). / Yonhap|