(LEAD) Defense chief to embark on three-nation trip to Middle East

Defense Minister Shin Won-sik will embark on a series of visits to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Thursday, his office said, in his first overseas trip since taking office last October. On the first leg of his trip, Shin will visit the United Arab Emirates from Thursday to Saturday and hold a meeting with Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Mazrouei, the UAE's minister of state for defense affairs. As part of the visit, Shin will also visit the Akh unit -- a South Korean military contingent in the UAE carrying out various missions, such as training UAE troops and protecting South Korean nationals in the region in case of emergencies. Beginning Saturday, Shin will make a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia to attend the biennial World Defense Show to be held in Riyadh next week. He will then visit Qatar next Monday for a two-day trip to hold talks with Qatar's Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, who doubles as the country's deputy prime minister. A ministry official said Shin's trip can be seen as a follow-up to President Yoon Suk Yeol's visits to the three countries last year. Yoon visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar in October and the UAE in January last year amid Seoul's efforts to boost ties with the Middle East nations. The official said the minister's trip will focus on creating an institutional foundation for arms industry cooperation in a strategic and mid- to long-term perspective. In January 2022, the UAE signed a deal to purchase South Korea's Cheongung II medium-range surface-to-air missile system. During the trip, Shin will also stress the need for cooperation in the international community to deter North Korea's provocations, and to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the official added. Source: Yonhap News Agency