Egypt inks $1.6 billion deal for South Korean howitzers

Agreement comes after South Korean president visits Cairo for first time in 16 years; Egypt is a major arms importer that has upgraded its military in recent years

South Korean army K9 self-propelled howitzers move in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army K9 self-propelled howitzers move in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)

CAIRO, Egypt — South Korea on Tuesday said it signed a $1.6 billion deal to sell arms to Egypt a week after US President Joe Biden’s administration approved another massive arms sale to the Middle Eastern nation.

The office of President Moon Jae-in in Seoul said the deal to provide K9 self-propelled howitzers to Egypt is the country’s biggest export contract for the weapon. It is manufactured by South Korea’s Hanwha Defense.

Self-propelled howitzers are artillery pieces that often resemble tanks.

Moon’s office did not provide further details on the deal, including how many of the howitzers Egypt will acquire. There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met with Moon in Cairo. It was the first visit by a South Korean president to Egypt in 16 years, according to the state-run al-Ahram daily.

Egyptian Defense Minister General Mohamed Zaki was in South Korea on Tuesday to attend the signing ceremony, Egypt’s military said in a statement. It said the deal included the local production and transfer of the artillery system to Egypt.

The Egyptian military also said the two countries signed two memorandums of understanding on mutual military cooperation.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, stand for an honor guard at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on January 20, 2022. (Egyptian Presidency Media Office via AP)

Sissi also met with Hanwha Defense CEO Kim Seung Mo in Cairo in November when Egypt organized its second international weapons fair.

Last week, the US Department of State announced a $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt. That deal included 12 Super Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and related equipment worth $2.2 billion and air defense radar systems worth an estimated $355 million.

Egypt, one of the world’s leading arms importers, has in recent years upgraded its military, striking massive arms deals with Western nations and Russia. It has built new military bases and expanded its naval and air power to help secure the country’s vast desert and sea borders, especially after the discovery of significant gas deposits in its Mediterranean waters.

Such deals have drawn criticism from rights activists who accuse the Egyptian government of carrying out a wide-scale crackdown on dissent.

Despite the recent arms deal, the Biden administration said last week it canceled $130 million in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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