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Saudi Arabia buys South Korean missile system

Saudi Arabia's Mnister of the National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets with South Korean defence minister Shin Won-sik SPA
Saudi Arabia's minister of the national guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets with South Korean defence minister Shin Won-sik
  • $3.2bn MoU finalised in Riyadh
  • Surface-to-air missile batteries
  • UAE bought same system

Saudi Arabia has signed a $3.2 billion deal to buy a mid-range surface-to-air missile defence system from South Korean company LIG Nex1, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defence said this week. 

The agreement was made in November but finalised via a memorandum of understanding signed on February 6 by Saudi defence minister Khalid bin Salman and South Korean minister of national defence Shin Won-sik on the sidelines of the World Defense Show, an industry exhibition being held in Riyadh. 

The Saudi defence ministry agreed to buy 10 batteries of a mid-range, medium-altitude interception system called Cheongung M-SAM II that can cope with ballistic missile and aircraft attacks, Reuters cited the South Korean ministry of defence as saying. 

Saudi Arabia was ranked fifth in the table of world military spenders in 2022, behind the United States, China, Russia and India, according to IMF data. Spending was up 16 percent on the previous year at $75 billion, representing 7.4 percent of GDP. 

The kingdom is trying to create its own defence industry to create jobs and reduce reliance on foreign expertise, as part of its mammoth economic development programme. 

Military fixed-wing aircraft account for more than 50 percent of Saudi purchases and are made mainly by five Saudi companies. 

South Korea, which signed a free trade agreement with Gulf Cooperation Council states in December 2023, is trying to become one of the world’s largest arms suppliers. Global sales jumped in 2022 to $17 billion from $7.25 billion the year before. 

The United Arab Emirates agreed to buy the same system from South Korea in January 2022, in a deal valued at the time at $3.5 billion. 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have in recent years faced drone and missile attacks from Iran-backed groups in Yemen and Iraq.

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