Seoul not considering military support to Ukraine
Seoul is not considering military support to Ukraine in light of Russian troops being ordered into its Luhansk and Donetsk regions, but is mulling other responses including sanctions on Russia, the Blue House said Wednesday.
“We are studying what we will do as we examine the unfolding situation and what effects it will have on us going forward,” a senior presidential official told reporters in a briefing, adding, “Military support and deployment are not among them.”
In response to a question about whether Washington has asked Seoul to join in sanctions against Moscow, the Blue House official said the United States has repeatedly outlined and discussed plans with allies to slap crippling export controls and financial sanctions on Russia.
“Major Western nations have expressed willingness to join in sanctions,” the official said. “We are also looking at this while leaving various possibilities open.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic – as independent and ordered the movement of Russian troops into both on Monday, defying U.S. and European warnings that such a step would be illegal and result in punishing sanctions.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced new economic sanctions targeting two Russian financial institutions and five Russian oligarchs on Tuesday in response, while leaving open the possibility that more could be imposed if Putin does not back down.
The U.S. sanctions follow Germany’s decision to shelve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a project that would have doubled the amount of gas moving from Russia to Europe and increase the continent’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
The European Union’s foreign ministers also agreed to a first package of sanctions targeting 27 Russian individuals and business and military institutions, as well as 351 members of the Duma – the lower house of Russia parliament – who voted to recognize the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk.
While the ramifications of Seoul joining Western sanctions against Russia remain unclear, the country could pay a significant geopolitical and security cost if the crisis escalates into a full-blown military conflict.
As tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine escalated in recent months, Pyongyang has revived diplomatic and trade talks with Moscow that had long fallen in abeyance due to the North’s self-imposed blockade on overland movement and trade in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Talks between Rim Chon-il, the North’s vice foreign minister in charge of relations with Moscow, and Aleksandr Matsegora, Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang, resulted in a mutual understanding to increase "strategic cooperation" between the two countries, according to the North’s Foreign Ministry earlier this month.
The ministry’s mention of “regional and international affairs, which are of great interest” as topics of discussion between Rim and Matsegora led to speculation that the North’s next moves could follow developments in Europe.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]