GDYNIA, Poland (AP) - Polish President Andrzej Duda and the country's defense minister on Tuesday took delivery of a first shipment of tanks and howitzers from South Korea, hailing the swift implementation of a deal signed in the summer in the face of the war in neighboring Ukraine.
Duda and Mariusz Blaszczak were in the Polish Navy port of Gdynia, on the Baltic coast, to mark the arrival by sea of the first 10 Black Panther K2 tanks, along with 24 Thunder K9 howitzers, from a $5.8 billion deal with Seoul.
They stressed that South Korea responded quickly to the need by Poland, a European Union nation, to urgently increase its deterrence and defense potential as Russia is fighting a war in Ukraine, just across Poland's eastern border.
"The quick pace of this delivery is of crucial importance in the face of Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine," Duda said.
"This is the future, this is the real strengthening of Poland's security," Duda said, standing before the tanks and the howitzers.
"In order to stop aggression, to stop the enemy, it is necessary for the army to have this modern equipment," he added.
Korean government and defense industry officials were also present at the ceremony in cold, wet weather.
South Korea's Minister of the Armaments Agency, Eom Dong-hwan, said the arrival of the Korean equipment has "great significance for the history of Korean-Polish relations."
Eom said the "world is watching with attention" the two countries' rapidly developing defense cooperation, and expressed hope the tanks and howitzers will play a significant role in Poland's defense at a time of "rapid changes in the security situation."
Blaszczak stressed that the armaments are among the wold's most advanced technologies.
"We want peace so we are preparing for war," Blaszczak said, invoking an ancient Latin saying.
More deliveries are planned through 2025.
Poland is purchasing hundreds of K2 Black Panther tanks made by Hyundai Rotem and of K9 Thunder howitzers made by Hanhwa Defense. The deal includes training, logistics, necessary related equipment and ammunition.
The conservative government in Warsaw is also buying Korean-made multiple missile launchers, K239 Chunmoo, and FA-50 fighter jets, a light training and combat aircraft made jointly by Korea Aerospace and Lockheed Martin, for some $3 billion.
Poland is also seeking a technology transfer so it can launch production domestically.