On July 14, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin arrived in Seoul, where he met with senior officials and laid the groundwork for a trade agreement. He also made a point of praising Israeli missile-defense systems, which of course have some appeal to a country in the sights of North Korean rockets. To Alvite Ningthoujam, the visit reflects the success of Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to expand his country’s diplomatic ties with East Asia: ties that in many cases have military as well as economic dimensions:
Of Israel’s total arms exports in 2018 (worth $7.5 billion), 46 percent were purchased by Asia-Pacific countries. . . . Vietnam has become one of the three largest Israeli arms clients between 2014 and 2018, along with Azerbaijan and India. This growing defense trade is crucial for Israel, mainly for funding its defense research-and-development programs, but also for ensuring an uninterrupted flow of foreign earnings into the country.
Moreover, with a limited scope for the consumption of its own defense products internally, Israel is on a constant look-out for clients elsewhere, and Southeast Asia has become a lucrative market. Besides aircraft and related systems, missile and antimissile systems, border-protection equipment, early-warning systems, intelligence equipment, and military-aviation components are the most sought-after Israeli-made items.
Beyond the arms trade, Israel has entered the domain of counterterrorism cooperation. Troops from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), for the first time, trained their Philippine counterparts.
It is certain that military-security cooperation between Israel and these Asian countries will progress further. . . . Notwithstanding the importance of economic cooperation, the Israeli government will continue to encourage defense engagements as a means of diversifying its revenue sources, which could also further lead to the establishment of political ties with these countries.