SEOUL: South Korea disputed a US media claim that its artillery rounds were on their way to Ukraine on Thursday, saying its attitude on not providing lethal help to Kiev remained unchanged.
According to the Wall Street Journal, hundreds of thousands of South Korean-made shells are planned to be sent to Ukraine via the US under a “confidential arrangement” between Seoul and Washington.
South Korea has a long-standing policy of avoiding delivering weaponry to active conflict zones, which it has maintained despite numerous pleas for assistance from the US, European allies, and Ukraine itself.”
The South Korean government’s position on aid to Ukraine remains unchanged… and there are also inaccuracies in the (WSJ) report,” said Jeon Ha-kyu, a spokesperson for the defense ministry.
Jeon acknowledged that the Pentagon and an undisclosed South Korean corporation had discussed “some ammunition exports,” but he declined to elaborate.
“There have been many discussions and requests, so the Korean government will take appropriate measures while comprehensively reviewing the situation in Ukraine and the humanitarian situation,” he said.
South Korea’s national security chief, Cho Tae-Yong, told lawmakers on Wednesday that “there are no support (in the form of) artillery shells to Ukraine.”
South Korea, the world’s ninth-largest arms exporter, has so far given humanitarian aid to Ukraine and sold tanks and howitzers to Poland, a major ally for Kyiv in its fight against invading Russian soldiers.
It has signaled that it may reconsider its policy of avoiding providing lethal aid, with the president’s administration stating last month that a large-scale Russian attack on civilians could tilt the scales.
Experts warn, however, that South Korea is in a difficult situation due to its economic relations with Russia, which will be its 15th largest trading partner by 2022, as well as Moscow’s influence over nuclear-armed North Korea.
“Cooperation with the United States is important for the Seoul government, but it also needs to maintain ties with Moscow,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul to AFP.