Australia has made its biggest defence agreement ever with an Asian nation, in a $1 billion deal with South Korea.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook visited Canberra on Monday to meet with prime minister Scott Morrison as the two nations held formal discussions over the deal.
It will see a Korean company provide 30 self-propelled howitzer artillery weapons, and 15 ammunition resupply vehicles and radars to detect enemy artillery.
The discussions between the two leaders – marking a first to occur in Australia since borders reopened – will see the Australian and Korean relationship elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
“Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the Republic of Korea is underpinned by our joint commitment to defence and security cooperation,” Morrison said in a statement.
“The contract with Hanwha demonstrates the value of industrial collaboration in supporting our countries in addressing mutual security challenges.”
As part of the pact, Korean company Hanwha will base a facility in Greater Geelong to build the self-propelled howitzers and ammunition resupply vehicles.
The federal government says the new facility, called the Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence, will create at least 300 jobs and support industry opportunities for the next two decades.
Defence minister Peter Dutton said the new vehicles’ primary advantage was they could move quickly, avoiding enemy counter-attacks.
“This project will mean a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australian artillery capability,” Dutton said.
“We are committed to keeping our region safe, while protecting our interests in a rapidly changing global environment.”
He said the self-propelled howitzer was one of several projects to modernise the Australian Army.
“This new capability will give our soldiers the best possible chance of completing their missions and returning home safe to their families,” Dutton said.
Nations flesh out clean technology and critical minerals partnership
Australia and South Korea have also given further detail to a partnership they formed ahead of COP26 in November.
The Australian government announced on Monday that as part of the Low and Zero Emissions Technology Partnership, the two nations would work together on clean energy technology as well as critical minerals projects.
Australia has a $50 million commitment to the partnership, while the Republic of Korea has committed to match Australia’s funding contribution subject to domestic processes.
Energy minister Angus Taylor said the partnership would strengthen cooperation on low-emissions technologies and help Australia achieve its emissions-reduction target.
“We look forward to collaborating on a range of new technologies, with an initial focus on initiatives in clean hydrogen and other derivatives; low-emissions iron ore and steel; and carbon capture and storage,” Taylor said.
“Our two countries share the ambition of advancing the development and commercialisation of low and zero-emissions technologies so they can achieve cost parity with high-emitting technologies as soon as possible.”
Science and technology minister Melissa Price said the partnership brought opportunities for the nations to further cooperate on clean technologies and critical minerals.
“Australia is blessed with strong reserves of critical minerals, and these precious resources will drive the new energy economy into the future,” Price said.