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South Korea pursues defense cooperation with Thailand as first T-50 deliveries underway

South Korea is seeking to bolster its defense industry cooperation with Thailand as the first deliveries of T-50TH Golden Eagle fighter jets are underway.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo visited Thailand on Thursday to meet his counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan and reiterate the desire for enhanced cooperation, Yonhap reported.

Last week the first two Korea Aerospace Industries T-50TH Golden Eagle supersonic fighter trainers were delivered to the Thailand Air Force. Two additional jets are due to be delivered soon under a $110 million 2015 contract.

The two countries have a reported $260 million deal for eight additional KAI T-50 jets.

South Korea has a separate agreement to sell the DW3000 Frigate to Thailand. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering designed the 3,650-ton ship multi-mission frigate, which was launched last January and is currently undergoing sea trials. The 2013 contract is reportedly worth $410 million.

Thailand is one of South Korea’s main defense export markets and Seoul is on track to becoming one of the region’s biggest arms dealers. In 2016 South Korean defense companies’ sales were worth a combined $8.4 billion, a 20.6 percent increase from the previous year.

Thailand has become a major purchaser of Chinese products despite budget constraints. In June, the Thai government finalized a purchase of 34 Chinese ZBL-O9 VN-1 armored personnel carriers for 2.3 billion baht ($73 million). In 2016, Prawit announced a $1 billion purchase of three Yuan-class submarines from China.

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