Clothes and equipment to be sent as 'humanitarian' aid to UkraineSeoul's Foreign Ministry announced Monday it would send military clothing and equipment as part of a humanitarian aid package to Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the Eastern European country enters its sixth day.
The announcement marks a partial shift from a Blue House official’s comments at a Feb. 23 briefing that while the government was reviewing possible responses to a potential Russian attack on its southern neighbor, military support was not among them.
“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 at the time, adding, “Military support and deployment are not among them.”
While the aid package is not known to include weapons, the decision to send combat gear to Ukraine’s armed forces brings Korea closer in line with the United States, Canada and European countries, some of which have re-examined their ties with Russia and revised policies against exporting military equipment to war zones.
Germany announced Saturday that it would supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from its own military stocks for defense against Russia.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It is our duty to do our best to support Ukraine in defending itself against Putin’s invading army,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday as he explained his country’s decision to bypass its own ban on weapon exports to a conflict zone.
Sweden and Finland, both of which are officially neutral and not part of NATO, also announced over the weekend that they would send military aid to Ukraine that includes anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armor.
Aid from Korea, which will mostly be comprised of combat uniforms and other defensive gear, will be delivered to Ukraine via NATO, given the difficulty of delivering them directly to Ukraine, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The gear was originally earmarked for Afghanistan, but was not delivered after the U.S. military withdrew from the country last year.
Perhaps in consideration of Korean-Russian relations, the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether such supplies are tantamount to military support for Ukraine. “The question of whether this is military support is an area of interpretation,” an official told reporters.
Seoul’s position that combat uniforms constitute humanitarian, rather than military, aid mirrors the Korean government’s reluctance to adopt punitive economic measures against Moscow that go above and beyond necessary adherence to international sanctions.
While Korea will ban exports of strategic items and join other countries in blocking some Russian banks from the SWIFT network, it has not drawn up unilateral measures of its own.
SWIFT is a Belgium-based messaging service, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, that connects more than 11,000 financial institutions around the world.
The restrictions on Korean exports of electronics, semiconductors, computers, communications equipment, sensors, lasers and navigational systems fall in line with other trade measures applied by the United States and Europe.
Korea’s own ban on such exports would prevent creating the impression that the country is undermining other countries’ technology restrictions by continuing such trade with Russia.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]