U.S. takes step toward signing defense procurement pact with S. Korea

The U.S. Defense Department has started a process to solicit industry feedback on its pursuit of a defense procurement agreement with South Korea to allow easier access to each other's market amid growing security uncertainties from North Korean threats and other challenges. Last week, the department posted a notice in the Federal Register to request public comments on the pursuit of a new Reciprocal Defense Procurement (RDP) Agreement with South Korea through March 25. Seoul and Washington have been seeking to sign the agreement as President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden committed to strengthening partnerships in defense-sector supply chains and beginning talks on the agreement during their summit in April last year. "The purpose of an RDP Agreement is to promote rationalization, standardization, interchangeability and interoperability of conventional defense equipment with allies and other friendly governments," the department said in the notice. "These agreements provide a framework for o ngoing communication regarding market access and procurement matters that enhance effective defense cooperation," it added. The Pentagon has concluded RDP agreements with 28 countries, it said. The RDP agreement is dubbed a defense-sector free trade agreement designed to reduce trade barriers and bolster bilateral exchanges. In a social media post, Rep. Michelle Park Steel (R-CA), a lawmaker of Korean descent, said that she recently wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to urge him to work on improving reciprocal defense procurement between the two countries. "With rising threats from the (Chinese Communist Party) and North Korea, I am so glad to hear the (Department of Defense) is taking action with South Korea to strengthen both of our defense capabilities," she wrote. In November, Seoul and Washington signed the Security of Supply Arrangement, allowing the two sides to request priority delivery for orders of defense-related goods from one another. Source: Yonhap News Agency