The Korea Herald


South Korea, NATO agree to expand cooperation to emerging technologies

Cooperation between Indo-Pacific, NATO countries as important as ever: Yoon

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : July 11, 2023 - 18:38

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Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a meeting on Tuesday in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Yonhap) Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a meeting on Tuesday in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Yonhap)

VILNIUS, Lithuania – South Korea and NATO agreed on Tuesday to upgrade their partnership by expanding the scope of cooperation from traditional areas such as counterterrorism, disarmament and cyber defense to emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, space and missiles.

At a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol stressed the need to "institutionalize the framework" to bolster cooperation with the US-led alliance.

“This year, I came to institutionalize the cooperation framework by creating the Individual Tailored Partnership Plan and discuss cooperation with NATO in the areas of military intelligence and cyber (defense),” Yoon said, adding that his NATO participation this year is aimed at advancing ties.

He also said the close cooperation between NATO members and Indo-Pacific countries has “never been more vital," stressing that the security of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific regions are “inseparable from each other.”

During the meeting, the Individual Tailored Partnership Plan was signed to strengthen comprehensive cooperation between Korea and NATO in 11 areas. They include dialogue and consultation; counterterrorism cooperation; disarmament and non-proliferation; emerging technologies; cyber defense; capacity development and interoperability; substantive cooperation for interoperability; science and technology; climate change and security; women, peace and security; and public diplomacy.

The relationship between South Korea and NATO has evolved from the Individual Partnership Cooperation Program, the first cooperation document signed between the two in 2012, to the more advanced Individual Tailored Partnership Plan.

“We value the partnership with you because security is not regional, security is global,” Stoltenberg told Yoon at the meeting. “What happens in the Indo-Pacific matters for Europe and what happens in Europe matters for the Indo-Pacific.”

He expressed gratitude to Yoon for his firm stance condemning the unlawful invasion of Ukraine and voiced his concerns regarding North Korea's nuclear missile programs.

The signing came as the military alliance between 29 European countries along with the US and Canada has been seeking to expand its cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries including South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The state heads of those Asia-Pacific countries have been invited to the summit since last year.

Yoon was attending the NATO summit for a second consecutive year as an observer.

The primary objectives of Yoon's visit are to bolster security cooperation with NATO members, foster global supply chains and promote initiatives related to the bid for the 2030 Busan World Expo, according to the presidential office.

On Wednesday, Yoon is scheduled to hold a summit with leaders from Japan, Australia and New Zealand, focusing on security concerns such as the North Korean nuclear threat and strategies for reinforcing supply chain collaboration.

In a press briefing prior to the summit, the president's press secretary Kim Eun-hye emphasized the pivotal role of the Asia-Pacific region in strengthening global security. Discussions during the summit will revolve around addressing North Korea's nuclear and missile threats in coordination with NATO member and partner countries, emphasizing resolute and unified international cooperation against North Korea's illicit activities.

Yoon will actively support efforts to secure Busan's bid to host the 2030 World Expo throughout his stay in Lithuania.

On Tuesday afternoon, Yoon was set to meet with leaders of Norway, Portugal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hungary, Sweden and Romania on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

Press secretary Kim said that Yoon plans to prioritize bilateral talks with NATO allies that have yet to declare their support for a World Expo host city, aiming to secure their backing. She emphasized the president's perspective that despite the demanding schedule, meeting individually with leaders from over 40 countries is vital to advance national interests and garner support for the event.