Australia has finalised its biggest ever defence deal with an Asian nation today, with Scott Morrison vowing to work with ‘like-minded’ nations.
Australia finalised its $1bn military contract with South Korea on Monday as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was crucial to work with “like-minded” nations in the Indo-Pacific amid increasing tensions with China.
The historic deal was inked during South Korean President Moon Jai-in’s four-day visit to Australia – the first time a world leader has been in the country since the pandemic.
In Canberra on Monday, Mr Morrison and Mr Moon witnessed the formal signing of the $1bn contract with South Korean defence giant Hanwha to build 30 Self-Propelled Howitzers and 15 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles.
The government first committed to the project during the 2019 federal election when it announced an Armoured Vehicle Centre for Excellence would be built in Geelong.
Further agreements were also signed relating to critical mineral exports to South Korea and green energy technology.
Mr Morrison said the friendship between the two nations was strong and deep and the Hanwha deal would create at least 300 jobs.
Mr Moon said the elevation of South Korea and Australia’s bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership set a new milestone.
“Today, the two countries have set a new milestone in co-operation based on the solid friendship and trust we have built over the past 60 years,” he said.
“We will, together, prepare for a new era.”
Mr Moon was asked whether his visit would send a “negative signal to China”.
“Australia does not desire a dispute arising in the region and for peace, we will continue to co-operate with Australia,” Mr Moon said.
Asked about how Australia should respond to China’s economic coercion, Mr Morrison said they would continue to work with like-minded countries to ensure economic choice.
“Australia and Korea are like-minded liberal democracies and we work together to ensure there are economic choices in the region,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the Hanwha deal placed South Korea in a strong position to secure more contracts.
This could include the massive $30bn deal to build infantry fighting vehicles for the Australian Army.
“The contract that we have signed today, I think, speaks volumes about what we believe are the capabilities of the Korean defence industry,” he said.
”When you are engaging with other countries in these types of contracts it is an objective to be doing so with those countries who are like-minded in their outlook … and we share a very similar view and a similar aspiration for the Indo-Pacific.
“So that places Korea in a very strong position among the many who are engaged in our competitive tendering processes for future contracts.”
In a statement, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the Hanwha contract would increase Australia’s artillery capability.
“The prime ability of the new vehicles is to fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counter-attack,” he said.
“This project will mean a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australian artillery capability.”
Work on the new facility in Geelong expected to commence in 2022.
Mr Moon’s visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of Australia-Korea relations and ties have now been elevated to the status of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
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