In this month of July, representatives of the Mercosur member countries and its south Korean counterparties will meet in the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, for the third time to sign an agreement and pave the way towards a Free Trade Treaty. How can this affect the Argentine and South Korean defense ties?
Argentina had very defense related trade with South Korea, some even remember the purchase of tank ammunition for the Army, but there are many development opportunities other than the case of the Lead in Fighter Trainers KAI FA-50 as has been discussed over the past week, in some cases actual possibilities, in other, not so much.
South Korea has a very advanced and capable defense industry, in many cases developed indigenously as other with high level cooperation with France, Israel, Russia and the U.S. With products that range from infantry gear, armored vehicles, tanks, aircraft, missiles, ships, submarines and torpedoes as many other cases.
For example, Argentina and South Korea share a number of components and weapons on board of their vessels that could also benefit from cooperation between navies as well for some support and modernization possibilities. Including control systems upgrades, ammunition and even the possibility to replace the legacy MM-38 Exocet missile fitted to the MEKO 140 corvettes with the C-Star missile. Such change has been already in the region as the C-Star are now onboard the upgraded FS-1500 frigates of the Colombian Navy. Even to consider the provision of the Sea Dragon variant, with both sea and land attack capabilities.
Many speculate on the proposal for the new Surion helicopter but it has no appeal yet to the argentine armed forces considering its new and should come across a number of milestones before its considered as a mature and combat capable aircraft, even in spite of missing possible and attractive industrial benefits.
Still as a modest exporter within the international arms trade market, such business opportunities in the region could prove worthy for South Korea compared to the informed arms and defense related export from 2018, an increase of even 100% of gross exports. Will these meetings jump start a strategic partnership within a possibly complementary block? And in particular for Argentina and South Korea, will this finally give a happy ending to the FA-50 deal?