South Korea Increases Defense Supplies: President Yoon Targets Becoming Top Supplier

South Korea increases defense supplies South Korea pursuing growth in defense supply

South Korea’s President, Yoon Suk Yeol has completed his 100 days in office. During this time he has expressed his plans to make Korea one of the world’s top four weapons suppliers. He increased South Korea’s defence budget, wishing to join the top exporters league along with the US, Russia and France. South Korea increases its defence supplies, leading to strategic industrialization making it a defensive powerhouse.

South Korea increases defense supplies

South Korea’s global status as a military supplier

In 2021, South Korea ranked 10th in the world in arms transfers according to the SIPRI. The value of arms export in South Korea is valued at $566 million. South Korea has already taken steps to achieve its top four ambitions by signing its biggest-arms deal with Poland. The deal was made with almost 1,000 K2 tanks, 600 pieces of artillery and dozens of fighter jets. In February 2022 South Korea signed a $1.7 billion deal with Egypt to supply K9 self-propelled howitzers and support vehicles. Late last year, South Korea made another massive deal to supply Australia with K9s.

President Yoon stated that South Korea pursuing growth in defence supplies is an ambitious goal. If met will make South Korea surpass several countries. Regionally it might surpass China as well. Chun In-Bum who is a military general and analyst is of the opinion that to meet this target South Korea will have a lot of work to do. President Yoon’s endeavour is based on the initiatives started under his predecessor, Moon Jae-in. South Korea increases its defence supplies and also the budget by 7per cent. This has changed the picture of the nation’s military. He has vowed to innovate the South Korean military on lines of changes in the security environment and technological progress.

The Korean Military Arsenals

These military sales have already launched Korea into the “defence major league” with what it’s called as “K-arsenal.” Korea’s military hardware is less expensive but with superior performance. This makes it a viable alternative to US weapons systems. The Korean military has the KF-21 fighter jet which is a homegrown supersonic fighter which will bring a boost to the economy of the country.

Next comes the South Korean K2 tanks which can be comparable to expensive main battle tanks like the American M1A2 Abrams. According to analysts, Poland has announced that it plans to buy 250 Abrams. But the US production lines are limited and US military needs are on priority. On the other hand purchase of 1,000, Korean K2s will allow Warsaw to add significant numbers quicker than it could get new US-made tanks.

Hiccups On the Way

Strategically, Seoul’s growing ability and willingness to supply advanced military to other US allies should be welcomed by the US. There are challenges towards the Biden administration like resourcing military strategies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Also, the US needs to sustain its own defence industrial capacity.

However, there are several questions about how close Seoul and Washington really are on key challenges. Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month, infuriated China, deteriorating relations with the US. Afterwards, when Pelosi visited South Korea President Yoon did not meet her in person. This development has led to speculation that South Korea was trying not to upset China. South Korea’s armed forces are shrinking in number hence it is absolutely necessary to modify and upgrade the defence system, Especially with growing threats from North Korea, supported by China and Russia.

The biggest dilemma is that China is South Korea’s largest trading partner while the US is the biggest security ally. It has to be careful to tread the line between the two rival mega powers.