Relations with the Republic of Korea

  • Last updated: 22 Mar. 2021 17:05

NATO and the Republic of Korea are committed to strengthening relations to address shared security challenges. Stabilising Afghanistan has been an important focus of cooperation in recent years.

Left to right: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in (November 2017)

  • NATO and the Republic of Korea have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since 2005. It is one of a number of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as “partners across the globe” – with which NATO is developing relations.
  • Since 2012, work has been taken forward through an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. This was renewed most recently in November 2019.
  • Beyond cooperation on Afghanistan, political dialogue and practical cooperation are being developed across priority areas, including non-proliferation, cyber defence, counter-terrorism, security-related civil science projects, interoperability, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence, as well as civil preparedness, resilience and disaster relief.

Key areas of cooperation

The Republic of Korea’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:

Building capabilities and interoperability

  • Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, the Republic of Korea has been participating in the Interoperability Platform that brings Allies together with 24 partners.
  • The Republic of Korea is interested in improving mutual understanding and interoperability through exchanges of civilian and military personnel, participation in education, joint training and exercises, and cooperation in the field of standardization and logistics.

Support for NATO-led operations and missions

  • The Republic of Korea is a significant contributor to stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2013, as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, the country led an integrated civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Team of some 470 personnel in Parwan Province, which helped build the capacity of the provincial government in the areas of health, education, rural development and governance. The Republic of Korea has also been a generous contributor to the NATO-run Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund, which is one of three funding streams used by the International Community to channel its financial support to Afghanistan’s security forces and institutions. To date, the Republic of Korea has contributed a total of USD 319 million to the Trust Fund. In 2020, the Republic of Korea served as the ANA Trust Fund’s co-chair. Moreover, the country is providing financial support for the socio-economic development of Afghanistan, having contributed USD 500 million during the 2011-2016 period, and an additional USD 255 million in support over the period 2017-2020.
  • Cooperating with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the naval forces of the Republic of Korea have provided escorts to merchant vessels passing through the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Wider cooperation

  • NATO and the Republic of Korea continue to cooperate in the area of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The Allies fully support the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.  At the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, they welcomed the recent meetings and declarations between the leaders of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and between the leaders of the United States and the DPRK, as a contribution towards reaching the final fully verified denuclearisation of the DPRK in a peaceful manner.  The Allies also reiterated their strong condemnation of the DPRK’s provocative rhetoric and actions, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability. The Republic of Korea has been participating regularly at NATO’s Annual Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction, the last one of which was held in November 2020.
  • Current practical cooperation under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme is focusing on activities in the fields of advanced technologies, counter-terrorism, and defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. Scientists in the Republic of Korea are participating in the key flagship Detection of Explosives and Firearms to Counter Terrorism (DEXTER) Programme, which brings together a multinational consortium of 11 laboratories and research institutes in 4 NATO nations and 4 partner countries. DEXTER will develop an integrated and affordable sensor-fusion system able to detect explosives and firearms in public places without disrupting the flow of pedestrians. Through other ongoing SPS multi-year projects, experts from the Republic of Korea are developing highly sensitive sensors for the detection of pathogens and nerve agents, and are working on the creation of passive bio-inspired atmospheric floating vehicles (used in swarm), to be used for the characterisation of hazardous emissions from man-made or natural catastrophes.
  • For the first time, in December 2020, the Republic of Korea participated in a NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting, together with Australia, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the EU HR/VP, to discuss the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China. This was only one of the latest and more visible political exchanges NATO has had with the Republic of Korea at various levels in recent years.