. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Officials to Discuss South Korean Arms Purchase

A Russian military delegation began a visit Monday to South Korea, where it was expected to try to smooth the way for Seoul to purchase weapons from Russia.

The Russian delegation, led by Colonel General Valentin Bogdanchikov of the Russian Defense Ministry, was scheduled to discuss a memorandum of understanding on arms procurement.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said earlier this month that such a document could be signed by the two countries' defense ministers late this year.

The memorandum would make buying Russian weapons easier for South Korea, which traditionally has bought most of its military hardware from the United States but has expressed interest in diversifying arms imports.

A spokesman for Russia's general staff, Major General Anatoly Andreyev, told Itar-Tass on Monday that no agreements would be signed during Bogdanchikov's visit.

Since establishing formal diplomatic relations with Seoul in 1990, Russia has shown keen interest in South Korea's growing arms import demand, estimated at $7 billion in 1995.

The Soviet Union was a long-time ally and arms provider for Seoul's rival, communist North Korea.

Since the Soviet collapse, Russia has stated its willingness to sell sophisticated hardware to South Korea.

But its failure to pay back overdue loans to South Korea has been a stumbling block.

In a new loan payment deal earlier this year, Moscow agreed to provide South Korea with $150 million worth of tanks, armored vehicles and missiles in 1996.

Andreyev confirmed that Russia would settle the debts by delivering the arms, Itar-Tass reported.

South Korean officials said earlier this month that the country is considering buying Sukhoi Su-35s, Russia's most modern jet fighters.