South Korean and Polish leaders visit an air base in eastern Poland, discuss defense and energy ties

MINSK MAZOWIECKI, Poland (AP) — South Korea's prime minister was in Poland on Wednesday for talks on regional security amid the war in neighboring Ukraine, and also to discuss military and nuclear energy cooperation as his country continues to strengthen ties with Warsaw.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, visited an air base in the town of Minsk Mazowiecki in eastern Poland, where they watched Korean FA-50 fighter jets that Poland recently bought along with other military equipment.

They discussed further cooperation on military weapons and equipment, as Poland also wants to help produce South Korean weapons. South Korea is also to take part in Poland's development of nuclear power.

“It can be said without doubt that Poland is a key economic partner for South Korea and a starting point for us to enter Central and Eastern Europe markets,” Han said after the talks.

He noted that both Poland and South Korea have experience rebuilding after a war and could cooperate in helping repair the damage in Ukraine.

“We are united in defending (our) civilization and peace,” Morawiecki agreed during a joint news conference with Han, referring to Russia’s almost 19 months of war on Ukraine.

Poland has given much military equipment to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia and is making intensive weapons purchases to upgrade its own deterrence and defense capabilities. Warsaw is also buying billions of dollars worth of armaments, mainly from the United States and South Korea.

“Today, Poland is facing a huge task of building one of the strongest armies in Europe," Morawiecki said. “We want to draw from the most advanced technologies. Our strategic partnership with Korea is leading us in that direction.”

On top of the 48 jet fighters, Poland is in the process of buying some 670 of K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers, some 1,000 K2 tanks and also K239 Chunmoo artillery systems.

Poland's government plans to spend more than 4% of its gross domestic product on defense in 2024. It remains to be seen if these policies will be continued after the Oct. 15 parliamentary elections in which the ruling conservative party will seek an unprecedented third term.

Poland's nuclear energy program until 2043 envisages Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power company as a strategic partner in developing one of Poland's three planned nuclear power plants.

On Tuesday, Korea opened its borders to Poland's pork, and it is working on allowing imports of beef and poultry meat from Poland, Han said.

Later Wednesday, Han was to travel to the southern spa town of Krynica-Zdroj to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and to attend a three-day regional economic forum. Polish-South Korean cooperation will be a key element of the forum's program, organizers say.

Bilateral economic trade between the countries was more than $10 billion in 2022, when the armaments purchases were made.

Poland and South Korea share views on security in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.