Washington presses Seoul to give weapons to Ukraine
The United States asked South Korea to provide offensive weapons to help Ukraine fight Russia.
According to the Pentagon on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin presided over a meeting of senior defense officials from 43 countries via video conference from the U.S. Air Force Base is Ramstein, Germany on April 25. The topic of the meeting was aid to Ukraine.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries, U.S. allies and friendly countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Israel, Sweden and Finland attended the meeting. The South Korean representative was Kim Man-ki, director of defense policy at the Ministry of National Defense.
Delegations from each country were briefed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley on the situation in Ukraine. Afterwards, the delegations discussed ways to help Ukraine.
According to multiple military sources, the U.S. representatives suggested at the time that “if it is difficult to send weapons directly to Ukraine given each country’s relationship with Russia, the U.S. will intervene.” This means the U.S. will take possession of the weapons from its allies and send them to Ukraine.
“The U.S. is trying to determine whether South Korea intends to provide offensive weapons,” said a military source who asked not to be named. “The Moon Jae-in administration had a strong negative stance against the U.S. proposal. But with the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration, the U.S. expects to find a more forward-looking position.”
“There is a possibility," another source predicted, "that the U.S.-Korea summit on May 21 or the 20th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) coming later in May will discuss Ukraine-related issues.”
South Korea has maintained that it will not provide offensive weapons to Ukraine.
On April 8, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov requested offensive weapons such as air defense weapons systems in a phone call with South Korean Defense Minister Seo Wook. However, Seo explained to Reznikov, “There are restrictions considering the security situation and the impact a deployment would have on our military’s readiness posture.”
Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to the National Assembly last month, “The South Korean military has the equipment to stop Russian ships and missiles.
“I would be grateful if South Korea could help Ukraine fight Russia,” he said.
South Korea provided assistance worth a total of $50 million to the Ukrainian government, including non-lethal military supplies such as bulletproof vests, helmets, combat rations and medical supplies.
The U.S. is trying to make the war between Russia and Ukraine a cause for the democratic camp of countries, and is hoping for help from its allies. Accordingly, NATO member countries are sending offensive weapons such as tanks, fighter jets and self-propelled artillery to Ukraine.
“The U.S. had doubts about South Korea’s sincerity because South Korea did not actively respond to Russian sanctions at first,” said Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Women’s University.
“Whether to support Ukraine by offering offensive weapons should be decided by the Yoon government after comprehensively reviewing South Korea’s international status, the ROK-U.S. alliance, and the principles of South Korea’s foreign policy and security.”
BY LEE CHUL-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]