The Huntsman AS9 self-propelled artillery system is produced by Hanwha Defense in South Korea. Australia agreed to import the system after a summit meeting with South Korea at Monda. Photo courtesy of Hanwha Defense
SEOUL, 16 Dec. (UPI)– Australia decided to import South Korean artillery systems after a recent meeting between the leaders of the two countries in Canberra.
Hanwha Defense Australia announced on Tuesday that it has signed a contract with the Australian Army for the supply of its Huntsman AS9 self-propelled artillery system.
The deal was announced a day after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
This is Australia’s first major defense acquisition from an Asian defense prime contractor.
The deal comes as Australia, at odds with China, tries to strengthen its alliance with the United States.
South Korea is struggling to balance its relationship with the United States, its biggest ally, and China, its biggest trading partner.
Australia decided to follow the lead of the United States last week in backing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in February by not sending an official delegation.
After the summit, Moon said South Korea was not considering a similar move.
As for the purchase of weapons, Australia is considering two models of infantry fighting vehicles, including South Korea’s “Redback”.
Redback is trying to convince the administration of Canberra, which plans to buy 450 new tracked armored vehicles worth between 18 and 27 billion dollars.
“Artillery and armored vehicles are not strategic weapons. Therefore, the slight difference in diplomatic stance would not negatively affect Australia’s decisions,” South Korean military commentator Kim Dae-young told UPI News Korea.
“In fact, Australia would highly appreciate the fact that South Korea is a close ally of the United States and that the two countries periodically conduct joint exercises,” he said.
Professor Kim Jong-dae of Yonsei University in Seoul agrees.
“The Huntsman AS9 are second to none in the global market, and Redback are very competitive in terms of price and features. Australia has no reason not to buy them,” he said during a telephone interview.