(Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s military said the country has maintained its position of not sending lethal arms to Ukraine, after the Wall Street Journal reported Seoul struck a secret deal with the US that would supply Kyiv with artillery.
The Defense Ministry said in a text message sent to reporters Friday negotiations are underway between a South Korean company and the US to export arms to help Washington stock up on its inventory of 155 mm artillery rounds, under the premise the US would be the end-user of the shells.
The Wall Street Journal reported US officials familiar with a confidential deal as saying Washington would purchase 100,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery from South Korea, that would then be sent to Ukrainian forces. The arrangement would allow Seoul “to stick to the letter of its public commitment not to send lethal military support to Ukraine,” while allowing the US not to dig deeper into its dwindling stock of artillery to help supply Ukraine.
While Seoul has provided 4.7 billion won ($3.5 million) worth of non-lethal aid that includes bulletproof vests, blankets, helmets and medicine, it has not accepted multiple requests from Ukraine to supply weapons. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy even made a personal appeal for the military aid when he spoke to the South Korean parliament in April.
Ukraine has been looking for help from Seoul, which has stockpiled artillery and built a powerful military force as it stares down North Korea on one of the world’s most heavily armed borders. South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol set off on a trip Friday for international meetings in Southeast Asia, where he is due to meet US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of a summit.
North Korea this week denied American allegations it was selling arms to Russia for use in Ukraine and said it has no plans to do so. The Biden administration has accused Pyongyang of covertly supplying Moscow with artillery shells for use in the Ukraine invasion.
North Korea Again Denies US Charges of Selling Arms to Russia
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stood by Russia since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbor and is one of the few countries that have recognized the Kremlin-controlled “People’s Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
The reports on arms sales come at a time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea is finding space to ramp up provocations and conduct tit-for-tat military moves against the US and its allies as Washington focuses on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
South Korea this week salvaged the first North Korean missile fired across a nautical border since the end of the Korean War nearly seven decades ago, saying it was similar to Soviet-era surface-to-air rockets used in the Kremlin’s indiscriminate attacks on Ukraine.
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