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SEOUL: South Korea is seeking to increase hydrogen cooperation with the UAE in a bid for a sustainable future and carbon neutrality, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday in Abu Dhabi during his Middle East tour to explore business opportunities in the region.

Moon arrived in the UAE on Saturday for a three-day visit as part of his week-long Middle East trip. From Abu Dhabi he will fly for talks in Riyadh.

“Through hydrogen cooperation between the UAE and Korea, I hope that we can move forward in a sustainable future and carbon neutrality,” he said while addressing the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

As South Korea wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, Moon said Seoul wants to bolster cooperation with the UAE in the development of carbon-capture technologies to create what is known as blue hydrogen — a form of the fuel obtained from natural gas in a process that stops carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

The UAE is one of the world’s foremost pioneers in the field.

Prof. Jung Sang-ryul of the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myungji University in Seoul told Arab News that with UAE-Korean hydrogen cooperation, the industry “can make a greater leap forward.

“The hydrogen industry is a field for future cooperation,” he said. “The UAE has strengths in the production of green and blue hydrogen, whereas South Korea (has) in utilization, storage and distribution, including hydrogen-powered vehicles, charging stations, fuel cells and liquid transportation.”

During Moon’s visit, Seoul and Abu Dhabi also reached a landmark $3.5 billion defense agreement on Sunday, under which the UAE will purchase KM-SAM surface-to-air-missiles, known as Cheongung II. It is the largest deal in the history of South Korea’s arm exports.

“The UAE is the first foreign nation to operate the Cheongung II,” Kang Eun-ho, commissioner of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Seoul’s arms procurement agency, said in a statement. “The deal is the result of the bilateral defense cooperation based on mutual trust and will serve as a watershed moment for the two nation’s strategic defense partnership.”

The KM-SAM was developed with technical support from Russia to replace the older Hawk surface-to-air missiles that had been in service in 1964. Equipped with a multi-function phased array 3D radar, the interceptor can “hit-to-kill” hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 km.

On the sidelines of the missile acquisition contract, the two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in defense technologies, including the potential development of weapons systems.

The UAE is South Korea’s top export market and biggest partner in human resource exchanges in the Middle East.

South Korean firms have participated in the development of Emirati oil fields and the Barakah nuclear power plant — the first nuclear power station in the Arabian Peninsula, which started operations last year.

On Tuesday, the South Korean president will continue his trip to Saudi Arabia.

His office said in a statement that Moon is scheduled to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The leaders of the two nations are expected to discuss energy and infrastructure, as well as health care, science and technology, hydrogen, intellectual property and education,”the office said.

On Wednesday, Moon is scheduled to meet Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf to discuss the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Seoul and GCC.

South Korea and the GCC started talks on a free trade deal in 2007, but negotiations had stalled and were suspended in 2010.