The Korea Herald


Korea, Saudi Arabia agree to expand partnership for global stability, economy

Yoon set to arrive in Qatar, vows expanded cooperation in defense, high-tech industries

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Oct. 24, 2023 - 14:32

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President Yoon Suk Yeol and Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who are on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, view the Neom exhibition hall in Riyadh, Monday (Saudi Arabia time). (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol and Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who are on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, view the Neom exhibition hall in Riyadh, Monday (Saudi Arabia time). (Yonhap)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Leaders of South Korea and Saudi Arabia agreed to enhance their strategic partnership in a wide range of areas to boost economic ties and affirmed their opposition to any kind of attacks targeting civilians in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the first joint declaration adopted in more than four decades.

According to the declaration released on the final day of President Yoon Suk Yeol's state visit to Saudi Arabia, the two sides agreed to actively explore ways to expand mutual investments in areas of common interest including the hydrogen economy, smart cities, future mobility means and startups.

The statement also encompassed the two leaders' commitment to regional peace in the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and Ukraine.

The joint statement contained 44 provisions to continue existing cooperation in trade, investment, construction, infrastructure, defense and energy, while expanding cooperation in areas such as eco-friendly construction and renewable energy. The highlight is South Korea's all-around participation in "Vision 2030," a national development project promoted by Saudi Arabia.

Yoon and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to further enhance their progressive strategic partnership, emphasizing key milestones in economic cooperation, including business contracts and memorandums of understanding valued at a total of $44.6 billion. This sum includes $29 billion signed during the prince’s visit to Seoul in November and an additional $15.6 billion secured during Yoon’s current visit to Saudi Arabia.

Yoon and Mohammed agreed to "reject targeting civilians" in any context regarding the escalating situation between Israel and Palestine, emphasizing the "importance of protecting civilians" in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law.

They agreed to work with the international community for the rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to suffering civilians.

The two sides also condemned all forms of violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions related to combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including the “pursuit of nuclear and ballistic programs” as well as “arms transfers” that could destabilize the Korean Peninsula and the international community.

They stressed the importance of supporting international efforts aimed at “preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction” as they represent a threat and undermine international peace and security.

The two nations also expressed their determination to enhance cooperation and coordination in the fields of defense and defense industry in a way that serves the common interests of the two countries and contributes to achieving security and peace in the region and the world.

A day earlier, Yoon met with Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman. The defense minister said the results of South Korean-Saudi defense industry cooperation, which has “entered the fruitful stage,” would become a new milestone in the relationship between the two countries. Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy director of South Korea's National Security Office, said the two nations are "in the final stages” for large-scale defense collaboration across various fields, such as anti-aircraft defense systems and firepower weapons.

Saudi Arabia is known to be interested in introducing air defense weapon systems such as South Korea's Cheongung II mid-range surface-to-air missile.

Yoon also expressed a strong desire to involve South Korean companies in Saudi Arabia's Neom City project, a massive initiative to create a state-of-the-art city near the Red Sea in northwest Saudi Arabia. Led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto power of Saudi Arabia, Neom City is a central component of “Saudi Vision 2030,” with the project's total size amounting to $500 billion.

South Korean companies are actively seeking contracts for six projects within Neom City, totaling an estimated $25 billion. These projects span various sectors, including tunnels, building structures, and ports.

Addressing business leaders during his trip on Monday evening, Yoon likened Neom City to a modern-day Great Wall of China, recognizing it as a global hub of technology and capability. He voiced strong support for South Korean companies, stating, “I will run again and again if it helps our companies’ exports and orders,” showcasing his commitment to bolstering South Korean industry and trade.

After concluding the four-day state visit to Saudi Arabia, Yoon is set to depart for Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday for a summit meeting and state luncheon with Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Following the summit, Yoon plans to attend the Korea-Qatar Business Forum, which will be attended by 300 businesspeople from both countries to encourage the officials. After touring the Doha International Horticultural Expo and Qatar Education City, Yoon will depart for South Korea on Wednesday afternoon.

In an interview with a Qatari news outlet, Yoon said South Korea will seek ways to expand cooperation with Qatar into areas of investment, defense, agriculture, culture, high technology and people-to-people exchanges, shifting from the traditional focus on construction. Yoon visited Qatar on a state visit, a first by a South Korean leader.