Defense Minister and DAPA chief will not attend solo NATO summit

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Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-seop. yunhap news

The Minister of National Defense and the head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration will be absent from the ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit’ to be held in Madrid, Spain from the 29th to the 30th.

According to a military source on the 22nd, Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop and the new Defense Acquisition Program Administration Director Eom Dong-hwan were both excluded from the domestic delegation of the NATO summit, which was scheduled to be attended by President Yoon Seok-yeol.

In the defense industry, such a decision by the presidential office is considered to be quite ‘unexpected’. Currently, as the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for several months, the demand for weapons has soared, with NATO member countries increasing their defense budgets. Accordingly, there was a prospect that the head of the DAPA would accompany President Yoon to the NATO summit and start export sales of ‘K-Defense’.

Poland, which borders pro-Russian state Belarus, recently announced that its defense minister would increase its defense spending to 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Kang Eun-ho, head of the DAPA, also led the export of the K9 self-propelled howitzer during the visit of former President Moon Jae-in to Egypt earlier this year.

The defense industry is analyzing it as “a result of considering the intentions of countries closely related to Korea, such as Russia, China,”. NATO is originally a military consultative body centered on European countries, which has strong anti-Russia characteristics, but if the South Korean defense minister accompany them, there is a high risk of being viewed as NATO’s ‘expansion in Asia’. With the appointment of the new director of the DAPA on that day, some critics say that the Defense Acquisition Program Administration is not well prepared for overseas sales.

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In relation to the recent visit by the leaders of South Korea and Japan to the NATO summit, the US Time magazine quoted an expert on a US defense think tank saying, “If South Korea ends its friendly relations with Russia (Moscow), Russia will invade North Korea (Pyongyang) on ​​the Korean Peninsula. We will further strengthen our strong supportive role,” he said.

Reporter Donghyun Kim 3code@hankyung.com

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