Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 108

A Russian Defense Ministry delegation has reportedly returned very satisfied from a six-day visit to South Korea that concluded earlier this week. The Russian group was headed by First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov and was said to have included–“unofficially”–representatives of the Russian state arms trading company Rosvooruzhenie. Mikhailov oversees the Defense Ministry’s contacts with defense industrial enterprises and is also chairman of the export control committee. According to one Russian daily, members of Mikhailov’s delegation provided few details of their talks in South Korea, but suggested that reports of “sensational” new arms agreements between Moscow and Seoul may soon be in the offing. Indeed, the newspaper reports that a primary goal of the Russian delegation during its visit to South Korea was “to strike a blow” against the United States’ current domination of South Korea’s arms market.

Military-technical cooperation between Russia and South Korea is not an entirely new phenomenon. In 1994, Moscow reached an agreement with Seoul to supply South Korea with military hardware in repayment for Soviet era debts to the South Koreans. Since then, Russia has shipped more than US$200 million in arms to South Korea. Those deliveries include T-80 tanks, BMP-3 combat infantry vehicles, “Igla” anti-aircraft missile systems and antitank missile systems. But such deals have only whetted Moscow’s appetite. Russia’s cash-starved defense industrial complex reportedly now looks on South Korea–despite its ongoing financial woes–as an important link in a broader effort to increase arms sales in Asia. Moscow reportedly sees as its trump card its willingness to supply South Korea not only with military hardware off the shelf, but also to grant South Korea access to Russian military technology. (Russky telegraf, June 3)

The “official” side of Mikhailov’s visit reportedly centered on standard political issues. The two sides were said to have discussed security and stability in Asia and did sign several agreements aimed at boosting military-to-military contacts between Russia and South Korea. Among other things, an exchange of visits by combat ships is scheduled to take place this year, while meetings are planned between the defense ministers of the two countries. Some South Korean officers will continue to study at Russian military academies. They will reportedly be participants in any decision by South Korea to buy Russian military equipment. (Itar-Tass, June 2)