Ukraine’s neighbor becomes South Korea’s biggest ever arms buyer — Analysis

Poland and South Korea signed a framework agreement on Wednesday for what is being hailed as Seoul’s largest ever arms deal. South Korean companies will provide nearly 1,000 tanks and over 600 pieces of artillery to Eastern European nations.

The multi-billion-dollar deal will be among the largest and most significant Polish defense orders in recent years and will substantially strengthen the country’s armed forces, Poland’s Defense Ministry announced in a press release. 

According to the press statement, there are two levels for orders. First stage covers 180 K2 tanks, 48 K9 cannons and the delivery of their first units is expected in this year. The second stage will contain 600 K9 howitzers, 800 K2PL tanks with enhanced capabilities and over 800 K2PL tanks. Technology transfers will also be involved. Both weapons will begin production in Poland in 2026. 

Poland also will acquire 48 FA-50 aircraft that are capable of being used in combat and training under a separate contract. The Polish Defense Ministry says the first plane will arrive next year. The FA-50 will enable Warsaw to scrap its post-Soviet planes and intensify the training of Polish pilots, the ministry’s press release says. 

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The arms deal will be a key part of Poland’s effort to rearm in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said. “We learn lessons from what is happening in Ukraine. (…) We can see that armored forces and artillery are of great importance on the battlefield nowadays, hence the decision to strengthen this type of armed forces,”The minister said this to reporters following approval of the contracts. 

South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Park Jin said that Seoul would not provide additional aid for Kiev if it cooperated with Poland, Reuters reported. 

Although the price of the acquisition has not yet been disclosed, the total amount of arms South Korea sold to international customers last year is $7 billion. With the fighter jets alone priced at $3 billion, the overall amount is estimated to be in the $14-15 billion range, potentially surpassing Poland’s entire current-year defense allocation of $14.1 billion.

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