Russia has warned South Korea against sending arms to Ukraine, threatening to deliver weapons to its North Korean enemy as retaliation.
The warning came after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol told Reuters in an exclusive interview that it might provide more than just humanitarian and economic aid to Ukraine if it faces a significant civilian attack.
Since the onset of the conflict, Seoul has been supporting Kyiv with everything but military assistance. Despite condemning Russia’s aggressive “special military operation,” South Korea has maintained a low-key stance and avoided antagonizing Moscow for economic and security reasons.
Not only the companies based in Russia will be in jeopardy, but also tensions with North Korea will likely increase considering Moscow’s influence over Pyongyang. So, South Korea has dug in its heels and not changed their minds despite the West’s pressure for weapons supply.
Exclusive: South Korea might extend its support for Ukraine beyond humanitarian and economic aid if it comes under a large-scale civilian attack, President Yoon Suk Yeol said, signaling a shift in his stance against arming Ukraine for the first time https://t.co/b0TjOwoznN pic.twitter.com/7hYxPaj5J0
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 19, 2023
Shortly after the interview was released, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Seoul’s sending weapons to Kyiv “would imply a certain involvement” in the conflict. Peskov noted that this will also mean South Korea has cemented its “unfriendly position in this story.”
Furthermore, Russia’s embassy in the Republic of Korea (ROK) warned Seoul of potentially damaging consequences as soon as it dispatches lethal arms to Ukrainian troops, simultaneously ruining its bilateral relations with Moscow, which have been steadily growing over the last thirty years.
Although the embassy stated it would keep an eye on South Korea’s stance regarding the matter, it remains confident that the country’s leadership will act responsibly.
All arms transferred to Ukraine are being considered by Russia as assistance by the “collective West,” which they have painted as the primary reason the conflict grew bigger and dragged on for nearly 14 months. Moscow blamed the inflow of weapon supplies in Kyiv as the culprit behind the disruption of the lives of “peaceful civilians, including women and children, of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as of the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions.”
South Korea reached an agreement last month to lend the United States 500,000 rounds of 155mm artillery shells that could give Washington greater flexibility to supply Ukraine with ammunition, a South Korean newspaper reported https://t.co/XrXmhYngRx
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 12, 2023
Quid Pro Quo
Russia likewise threatens to supply South Korea’s adversary with its own weapons if the South arms Ukraine.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president that served between 2008 and 2012, remarked on Yoon’s interview.
“I wonder what the inhabitants of this country will say when they see the latest samples of Russian weapons from their closest neighbours, our partners from the DPRK?” Medvedev wrote via Telegram.
The next day, Yonhap News Agency reported that the floor leader of ROK’s Democratic Party had urged Yoon to “immediately retract his remarks,” which hinted at non-humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
During a DP meeting, Representative and floor leader Park Hong-geun stressed that “the president cannot unilaterally make a decision without consent from the National Assembly,” especially since the issue will significantly affect the country’s security.
Park added that such highly-sensitive issues require parliamentary consent.
“The Democratic Party can never accept the government’s unilateral decision that would bring about serious threats to the national interest and security,” he said.
In addition, Park highlighted a detrimental economic blow South Korean businesses might face as soon as military aid transfer to Ukraine begins. The president should have also stuck to the established principle of no lethal assistance.
Lim Soo-suk, the spokesperson for the foreign ministry, also commented on the matter. He told reporters on Thursday that Seoul’s stance in the Russia-Ukraine War remains “unchanged.” Moreover, while South Korea continues to “participate in international efforts to protect Ukraine’s freedom and restore peace” via humanitarian support, the country will not jeopardize its stable relations with Russia. Lim further noted that the president’s comments were made based on common sense “under the premise of hypothetical circumstance” and that what the country does in the future will depend on Russia.
Ukraine Needs More Arms
Approaching the 14-month milestone since Russia launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the latter continues to struggle with its arsenal and has pleaded with Western allies for more—and fast.
The recently leaked Pentagon files revealed the dire situation of the Ukrainians in terms of their weapons stockpile, with one document even suggesting that it could run out by next month causing a potential stalemate that could last for months on end.
It should be noted, though, that some of these top-secret leaked files were accordingly altered and not legitimate. So discussions mentioning these confidential materials must be taken with a grain of salt.
Nevertheless, the news of Ukraine needing more arms isn’t exactly shocking. The country has asked for more urgent military supplies from the United States and NATO for months, especially after lengthy fighting in Bakhmut.
The terrible war in Ukraine continues. Today I asked President @ZelenskyyUa how he and the Ukrainian people are doing, and I promised him that we will continue supporting his country. This morning for example, 🇳🇱 and 🇩🇰 announced that we will supply 🇺🇦 with 14 Leopard 2 tanks. pic.twitter.com/qSi92ZsfI6
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) April 20, 2023