(LEAD) S. Korea opens largest-ever defense exhibition to boost arms exports

SEOUL, South Korea kicked off its largest-ever defense exhibition Tuesday to boost exports of its latest weapons and technologies, featuring aerial displays of the homegrown KF-21 fighter jet and U.S. strategic bomber B-52.

The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2023 opened at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, and runs until Sunday, involving 550 companies from 35 countries.

It is expected to draw some 30,000 visitors, including over 114 military and defense officials from 55 countries, marking the largest-ever edition of the biennial event launched in 1996.

During an opening ceremony, President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to provide support for the country's defense industry by creating an ecosystem that enhances global competitiveness.

"The defense industry is a strategic national industry that supports national defense and the economy," Yoon said during a congratulatory speech.

South Korea's homegrown KF-21 fighter jet conducted a demonstration flight in its public debut, which was joined by U.S. military aircraft, including the F-22 stealth jet, F-16 fighter jet, T-50 trainer jet and U-2 spy plane, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bilateral alliance this year.

The nuclear-capable B-52 bomber flew over the air base in a rare appearance at the defense exhibition, demonstrating Washington's commitment to security on the Korean Peninsula.

It is expected to land at a South Korean air base during the exhibition period.

Although the B-52s, considered a key strategic asset, along with the B-1B and B-2 bombers, have been deployed to joint drills between Seoul and Washington, it will mark the first time that one has landed at a South Korean air base.

Additionally, the EA-18G Growler, an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, was displayed to the Korean public for the first time.

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a congratulatory speech at the opening ceremony of the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2023 at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on Oct. 17, 2023. (Yonhap)

South Korean companies showed their latest weapons systems and technologies to boost defense exports in the hope of building momentum from the large-scale arms deals in Poland.

Last year, South Korea's arms exports hit a record high of 22.9 trillion won ($17.9 billion), according to Morgan Stanley, as it signed major contracts with Poland to supply K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers.

The defense ministry has unveiled a goal to carve out a 5 percent share of the global arms export market by 2027 to become the world's fourth-largest defense exporter.

The first four days will host various seminars and forums for defense industry officials before the exhibition is opened to the general public in the last two days.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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