CANBERRA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Australia signed a A$1 billion
($716.5 million) defence deal with South Korea on Monday,
boosting Seoul's efforts to grow its military exports.
Under the terms of the deal, South Korean defence company
Hanwha Corp will build 30 self-propelled howitzers
and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles for Australia.
"It's an important further chapter in the defence industry
story for Australia as we continue to build our sovereign
capability and (South) Korea is an important partner in that
journey," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told
reporters in Canberra.
The deal positions Hanwha as a frontrunner for Australia's
planned A$30 billion contract to build infantry fighting
vehicles for its army.
Shares in Hanwha were up 3% following the announcement.
While the defence deal is the headline of South Korean
President Moon Jae-in's four-day trip to Australia, both
countries said they have also agreed to work closely to help
ensure supplies of Australian critical minerals exports for
South Korea's tech sector.
Western allies have in recent months moved to reduce their
dependency on China amid heightened concern about Beijing's
control over the critical minerals sector.
South Korea needs critical mineral supplies, having pledged
to become a global battery manufacturing powerhouse by 2030 as
part of its plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Australia supplies around 40% of South Korea's critical
mineral imports, which are crucial for many of the components
needed to drive the world's economies to net zero emissions by
($1 = 1.3957 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)