By Chang Dong-woo and Kim Ji-yeon
SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said his country is "counting very much on" technology transfers from South Korea in line with growing bilateral partnerships in the defense industry, especially as Warsaw is seeking to acquire more heavy military equipment.
Local authorities "count very much on the transfer of technology and reproduction of similar weapons," he said during an exclusive interview Wednesday in Seoul with Yonhap News Agency on the prospect of arms cooperation between the two sides this year.
"Certainly we are looking for the opportunity to purchase heavy military equipment," he added, citing the nation's geopolitical situations as the neighbor of Russia and Belarus. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has served as a reminder of security threats facing Poland as well.
He had talks with his South Korean counterpart, Park Jin, on Tuesday on pending bilateral and global issues. He also met with Unification Minister Kwon Young-se and Kim Sung-han, top security adviser to President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Poland and South Korea have notably deepened bilateral cooperation in the defense industry.
Last year, South Korean companies signed contracts with Poland to supply K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers.
He noted South Korea has shown solidarity with Ukraine, offering humanitarian and economic aid. Regarding the sensitive matter of whether South Korea should decide to provide lethal weapons or not to Warsaw, he stressed it is up to Seoul's "sovereign decision" based on factors such as public opinion.
On South Korea's bid to export a nuclear power plant in Patnow, located some 240 kilometers west of Warsaw, Rau said he has a "positive outlook" on Seoul's efforts but he would not jump to "any conclusion."
Last year, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. signed a letter of intent with Polish partners to work together on the development plan of a nuclear power plant at the Patnow site. When a final deal is realized, it would be Seoul's first nuclear power plant export since the 2009 Barakah project in the United Arab Emirates.
The minister expressed hope that South Korea's president will visit Poland within this year.
Yoon has "an open invitation" from Polish President Andrzej Duda, he said and raised the possibility that Yoon will travel to Poland on the occasion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit to be held in July in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Asked about South Korea's bid to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan, Rau said Poland sees "very highly" of the country's candidacy and that the event is "bound to succeed" if Busan ends up hosting it
He also said Poland will "definitely" vote in favor of South Korea's bid for a seat as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council for the 2024-25 term. "We were a candidate for the same position a couple of years ago. We were counting on your support, and you voted for us," Rau said.
Meanwhile, he condemned North Korea's ballistic missile provocations and reported preparations for another nuclear test. Poland, if needed, is willing to convey a message "that would ease tensions on the Peninsula" to the North through Pyongyang's embassy in Warsaw, he added.