In an interview with SBS Korea Dr Peter Lee spoke about the importance of Australia-South Korea defence ties and the optimism that these will be expanded under the incoming People Power Party administration of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol.
In an important shift from previous Australian and South Korean attempts to collaborate on defence matters, Lee notes that this time around "rather than an off-the-shelf acquisition of weapons systems, Australia is seeking to co-develop and manufacture defence capabilities domestically together with Korea".
The SBS Korea article also includes a reference to KARP project partner Jeffrey Robertson's article for The Interpreter, in which he notes that "the purchase of Hanwha’s K-9 howitzer and resupply vehicles was about addressing mutual security challenges. The elevation of the relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” was done amid rising regional tensions; and talks on natural resources were about securing strategic supply lines to counter China".
Lee makes the important point that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was fourth on incumbent president Yoon's list of official calls to state leaders, after the US, Japan, and the UK. This represents a level of respect for the Australia-Korea bilateral relationship that comes as a welcome change of pace after years of indifference on both sides towards this important bilateral partnership; one of Australia's most critical in Asia.
In concluding the interview, Dr Lee looks to the future, predicting that the upcoming Australian federal election scheduled for May 21, 2022 is unlikely to have any significant impact on Australia-Korea relations, with both Scott Morrison of the current Liberal-National Coalition government and his chief rival Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party largely aligned on the importance of countering China in the Indo-Pacific. Both leaders see AUKUS, the Quad, and bilateral relationships in the region such as those with South Korea and Japan as important in maintaining this strategy.
The full interview can be found on SBS Korea, here.