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SKorea President Visits UAE, Shows Ties01/16 10:02

   

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- On a trip to the United Arab Emirates, 
the president of South Korea on Sunday reportedly reached a preliminary 
multibillion-dollar deal to sell Seoul's surface-to-air missiles to Abu Dhabi 
and pledged deeper cooperation with the Gulf Arab federation.

   After South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Emirati Prime Minister Sheikh 
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai, the countries signed a memorandum of 
understanding for the UAE's purchase of a South Korean mid-range missile 
defense system valued at some $3.5 billion, South Korea's Yonhap news agency 
reported.

   There were no further details on the deal announced during the visit nor 
immediate comment from the UAE. But during Dubai's weeklong aviation trade show 
last November, the Emirati Ministry of Defense tweeted it planned to acquire 
South Korea's M-SAM, an advanced air defense system designed to intercept 
missiles at altitudes below 40 kilometers (25 miles), saying it would 
"constitute a qualitative addition to the capabilities of the national air 
defense."

   Sheikh Mohammed posted photos of the meeting and said the UAE seeks "a 
comprehensive strategic economic partnership" with South Korea, one of the 
world's top crude importers and financiers of energy projects.

   The nations have strengthened their defense cooperation over the past 
decade, with South Korean elite special forces even traveling to the UAE to 
train Emirati troops in an unprecedented years-long deployment for the Asian 
country.

   Meanwhile, the UAE has hosted hundreds of North Korean laborers in past 
years who provide a key revenue stream for Pyongyang. But under pressure to 
enforce U.S.-led sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program, Abu Dhabi has 
recently moved to choke off the network and stopped renewing North Korean work 
visas.

   From Dubai's Expo 2020, where South Korea boasts a sprawling pavilion to 
showcase the country's high-tech and cultural achievements, President Moon 
praised the world's fair and pledged the countries will "transcend generations 
and national borders to build back together and leap forward together."

   President Moon landed in the regional financial hub of Dubai on Saturday, 
and was greeted by UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei. The oil and 
gas-dependent South Korea imports fossil fuels from the Persian Gulf, including 
from oil-rich Abu Dhabi, to power its energy-intensive economy, dominated by 
manufacturing industries from cars to petrochemicals.

   The UAE represents 8% of Seoul's oil imports, according to 2019 data from 
the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

   Not only does Seoul buy Emirati oil, but South Korean firms have 
participated in the development of Emirati oil fields to boost the Asian 
country's self sufficiency and, significantly, have built the UAE's Barakah 
nuclear power plant -- the first on the Arabian Peninsula.

   The group of four reactors at Barakah in Abu Dhabi's far western desert, 
which marked the Korea Electric Power Corporation's first international deal, 
are gradually coming online. As the UAE seeks to decrease its reliance on 
fossil fuels and diversify away from oil, it plans to draw a quarter of its 
electricity from the $20 billion reactors.

   During the South Korean trade minister's trip to the UAE late last year, the 
countries also began negotiations on a new bilateral trade deal, including 
agreements to develop sources of clean power. On Monday, Moon met with an 
Emirati business delegation about clean-burning hydrogen fuel, his press office 
said.

   The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has sharpened its focus on hydrogen in 
recent months, building facilities to produce large volumes of the fuel and 
shipping so-called blue ammonia to Japan.

   "Carbon neutrality is obviously a difficult process, but if the two nations 
promote the hydrogen industry through solidarity and cooperation, they will 
have new opportunities," Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as telling a business 
forum in Dubai, adding that Seoul has helped the UAE develop a hydrogen-powered 
public transport system.

   A different South Korean export takes center stage later Sunday at Expo, as 
star K-pop bands including Psy, of the hit song "Gangnam Style," will perform 
catchy songs and dynamic dance moves to frenetic fans that braved rare desert 
rain to line up since early morning.

 
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