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June 20, 2024

S/Korea hints at potential arms supply to Ukraine

Ukraine

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky

The South Korean government on Thursday said it would reconsider its stance on arms supply to Ukraine after North Korea and Russia signed a treaty to mutually provide immediate military assistance if one of them is attacked.

National Security Advisor Chang Ho-jin also condemned “the comprehensive strategic treaty” signed during the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

“The government expresses grave concern and condemns the signing of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement between North Korea and Russia, which aims to strengthen mutual military and economic cooperation,” Chang said in a press briefing at the presidential office.

Chang said any cooperation that directly or indirectly aids North Korea’s military enhancement is a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and will be subject to international scrutiny and sanctions, and vowed to take corresponding measures.

“We plan to reconsider the issue of arms support to Ukraine,” Chang also said, suggesting a shift in South Korea’s policy of not providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

A presidential official said South Korea will maintain strategic ambiguity regarding the types of weapons that could be supplied to Ukraine.

“Specific measures will be revealed later, and it will be interesting to see how Russia responds, rather than revealing our plans in advance,” the official told reporters.

Air defense systems could be on the list as Ukraine is in desperate need of missile shields to counter Russian air strikes, according to government sources.

South Korea will also slap additional sanctions on four Russian ships, five organizations, and eight individuals involved in the transfer of weapons and oil between Russia and North Korea, Chang said.

There are 1,159 items subject to export controls to Russia following the Ukraine war, and South Korea will add 243 new items, bringing the total to 1,402 items under sanctions.

Chang said it is “troubling” that North Korea and Russia, with their history of initiating the Korean War and the Ukraine War, respectively, pledged military cooperation based on the hypothetical scenario of a preemptive attack.

“This is a fallacious and irrational argument that disregards international responsibility and norms,” he said.

In light of deepening ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, the government vowed to sternly respond to any security threats in coordination with the international community.

“We will further strengthen the extended deterrence of the S. Korea-U.S. alliance and the security cooperation among South Korea, the United States, and Japan to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Chang said.