Stability, security of Indo-Pacific absolutely critical for prosperity of the world: Korean defence minister | India News – Times of India

South Korean defence minister Suh Wook is in India to bolster bilateral defence cooperation, soon after US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin’s visit to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific against a belligerent China. He tells Rajat Pandit that Korea and India can look to jointly produce and export weapon systems to third countries. Excerpts:
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to India?
A: Since establishing a special strategic partnership in 2015, Korea and India have developed into partners that cooperate closely not only bilaterally but as well as multilaterally. I look forward to strengthening our special partnership. On Friday morning, I will attend the opening ceremony of the India-Korea Friendship Park (in Delhi Cantonment). This park will be a new milestone in celebrating the eternal friendship of our countries and paying respect to the commitment and sacrifice of Indian veterans in the Korean War, who provided medical assistance and saved many lives. I will then meet defence minister Rajnath Singh to discuss ways to strengthen our defence cooperation. I will also visit the 50 Para Brigade and 60 Para Hospital in Agra to convey my thanks to the heroes of the Korean War.
Q: What can India and Korea do to increase security in the Indo-Pacific?
A: The Indo-Pacific constitutes 60% of the world’s population and is also a dynamic region through which 47% of world trade transits. Stability and security of the Indo-Pacific is absolutely critical for prosperity of the entire world. In the recent past, natural disasters, maritime accidents and crimes have increased in the region, apart from the advent of transnational threats such as Covid-19. There is an increasing trend of regional states pushing policies that put their nations first.
In times like these, the international community must show solidarity and cooperation. From this perspective, I believe the importance of India-Korea cooperation cannot be stressed enough. We share the same values of free democracies and market economics. I believe we can become partners in pursuing and driving equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines as well as in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
Q: What are the specific plans for cooperation in the defence sector?
A: The Korean government is endeavouring to bolster strategic cooperation with South Asian countries, with our new ‘Southern Policy’. India is a critical partner in this. Our defence ministry is planning a diverse range of cooperation with India. For instance, sharing expertise in areas like counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and space cooperation. In 2020, Korea and India agreed a roadmap between their defence industries, which proposes substantial cooperation through joint R&D, technology transfers, co-production and marketing. This is in line with your government’s ‘Make in India’ policy.
Recently, L&T (in collaboration with South Korean Hanwha Defence) delivered the 100th K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer to the Indian Army. It’s a textbook example of Korean technology transfer with local production. We look forward to expanding the scope to other areas like aircraft and ships. We can jointly export to third countries, with India being the gateway between Asia and the Middle East and Africa.
We are very proud of Korea’s ship-building capabilities that have a competitive edge in the world. Korea produces logistics support vessels, corvettes, frigates and submarines. We have exported them to various countries. Korean firms can fulfil all conditions, from design to production, in India’s minesweeper and submarine-building projects.
Q: As a neighbour, what is your opinion about the rise of China and its belligerence in the Indo-Pacific?
A: Through history, the political situation on the Korean Peninsula has been stable when the neighbouring countries have maintained peaceful and co-existing relations. Our government is maintaining stable, friendly and cooperative relations with our neighbours as well as with allies like the US. It is appropriate that we contribute to the resolution of all friction through dialogue and communication. In the process of driving forward the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the overall peace process, China can certainly play a constructive role.
Our government’s position is that the rules-based order must be maintained in the Indo-Pacific. Openness, inclusiveness and transparency must be the principles for regional cooperation. Korea and India share these fundamental principles.

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