South Korea May Relent on Selling Weapons to Ukraine

Possible reconsideration of weapons policy comes in response to Russia-North Korea pact
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2024 8:17 AM CDT
South Korea Doesn't Take Kindly to Russia's New Pact
A TV screen shows an image of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hanoi, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 21, 2024.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea is not taking North Korea and Russia's newly cemented partnership lightly. Shortly after Vladimir Putin stated that the deal provides for "mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties," Seoul on Thursday said it was "planning to reconsider the issue of providing weapons support to Ukraine," reports CBS News. It summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday. More:

  • Why the weapons statement is a big deal: South Korea has a longstanding policy in place that keeps it from selling weapons to active war zones, and despite entreaties from the US and Ukraine, it has thus far declined to sell the latter country weapons in its fight against Russia.
  • Context: As Voice of America explains, South Korea is a major weapons exporter (9th in the world) and is known for being a fast supplier of "reliable" weapons. Western countries maintain "that South Korean weapons could play a pivotal role in helping Kyiv fight off Russia's invasion."
  • Putin's response: The Russian president didn't take kindly to the South's statement, saying Seoul would be making "a big mistake" if it chooses to supply Ukraine with weapons. Should it do so, Moscow "will... [make] decisions which are unlikely to please the current leadership of South Korea," Putin said Thursday, per the BBC. CNN reports that Putin added, "As far as I know, the Republic of Korea does not plan aggression against the DPRK [North Korea], which means there is no need to be afraid of our cooperation in this area."
  • But: Senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev wasn't so restrained, writing in a Telegram post, "I wonder what the people of this country (South Korea) will say when they see the latest Russian weapons from their closest neighbors—our partners from the DPRK?"

  • The ambassador angle: South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hong Kyun summoned Russian Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev and emphasized that if Russia did anything to bolster the North's military, it would be viewed as a threat to the South. Zinoviev called any attempts to "threaten or blackmail" Russia unacceptable and said the deal didn't put specific third countries in the crosshairs, reports the AP.
(More South Korea stories.)

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