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UK and Republic of Korea New Accord

The President of the Republic of Korea inspects the front rank of F Company Scots Guards [Crown Copyright: Sgt Rob Kane]

A new Accord signed between the UK and Republic of Korea will strengthen our joint ability to enforce sanctions against North Korea.


Press Release, Whitehall, 21 November 2023: A new Accord signed between the UK and Republic of Korea (ROK) will include a defence agreement between the UK and Republic of Korea (ROK) that will see both nations jointly enforce United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on North Korea (DPRK) for the first time.

The agreement, which forms part of the Downing Street Accord, will be signed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Yoon Suk Yeol during his State Visit this week. The Accord affirms that the UK and the Republic of Korea will work closely on defence and security, collaborating in science and technological innovation, and boosting trade and investment opportunities.

The DPRK relies on smugglers in order to bypass international sanctions, many of which were introduced to block imports and exports which could be used to support its nuclear weapons programme. A significant amount of this smuggling takes place in the East China Sea, where Royal Navy ships have previously deployed and captured evidence of this activity.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK is leading the way in supporting our Korean friends in countering North Korea’s aggressive posturing and ensuring the safety and security of the Indo-Pacific.

“Deepening the ties between the Royal Navy and Republic of Korea Navy, our bilateral defence relationship has never been stronger.”

The agreement will support closer relations between the Royal Navy and ROK Navy during future cooperation to counter this activity, and will support the security of the Indo-Pacific region.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said: “The UK and the Republic of Korea have built a strong relationship of trust and respect over many years – this year we celebrate the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

“And Britain has a long history of standing with the ROK in its commitment to democracy in the region.

“This agreement – signed 70 years after the Korean War Armistice – is a truly unique step in the strengthening of our work to secure the security of the Korean Peninsula and the region. We are proud, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to be at the forefront of international sanctions enforcement activity.

“This includes upholding international commitments to curtail North Korea’s illegal weapons programmes.”

The UK is fully committed to meeting its obligations as a permanent UNSC member to enforce sanctions resolutions, and routinely conducts maritime monitoring operations focused on vessels which could be involved in the illegal transfer of goods and resources. The Royal Navy maintains a persistent presence in the Indo-Pacific, as reaffirmed through this year’s refreshed Defence Command Paper, with two offshore patrol vessels – HMS Spey and HMS Tamar – deployed in the region.

Further activity involving both the Royal Marines and British Army is also currently being planned for 2024. After a highly successful Ex IMJIN WARRIOR in October of this year at the Korean Combat Training Centre, the UK will further expand its commitment to this bilateral exercise in 2024, while the ROK-led Exercise SSANG YONG will see a significant uplift in the number of Royal Marines taking part.

The UK and ROK will commit to a breadth of security and defence cooperation as part of the Accord, which will also include sharing information to more efficiently tackle maritime threats in the Indo-Pacific, and the signing of a Strategic Cyber Partnership committing our nations to working together to tackle cyber threats. The Accord will also deliver an important milestone in UK-ROK defence relations, with the signing of a joint Ministerial Statement Of Intent to establish a new Defence Partnership for Industrial and Capability Cooperation.

The partnership will open a detailed dialogue between our Defence and procurement officials, enabling greater integration between our export and capability requirements, including industrial collaboration and supply chain integration. It will strengthen our future joint defence exports, with British and Korean industry working together on projects with selected third countries, and will allow for greater collaboration on shared industrial development and R&D.

During the State Visit, the President will be joined by The Duke of Gloucester to lay a wreath at the Korean War Memorial in London, in memory of those who gave their lives in the conflict – with 2023 marking 70 years since the armistice was signed.


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