Putin ‘appreciates’ Seoul not directly supplying weapons to Ukraine

Posted on : 2024-06-07 17:27 KST Modified on : 2024-06-07 17:27 KST
The Russian president said that channels are open to restoring South Korea-Russia relations should Seoul want to
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with representatives of the foreign press on June 5, 2024, in St. Petersburg. (AP/Yonhap)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with representatives of the foreign press on June 5, 2024, in St. Petersburg. (AP/Yonhap)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow “highly appreciates” South Korea’s decision to not directly deliver weapons to the conflict zone with Ukraine. The comment came in response to a question on the controversy surrounding South Korean arms aid to Ukraine. 

When it came to the issue of arms aid to Ukraine from the West, Putin rattled Russia’s nuclear saber, hinting at the possibility of retaliating with nuclear weapons. 

“We see that there is no Russophobic attitude in the work of the South Korean leadership,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin, during a meeting with the heads of international news agencies, including Yonhap News, Kyodo News and AFP, ahead of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. 

In regard to souring relations between South Korea and Russia, Putin expressed hope that bilateral relations between Seoul and Moscow will not deteriorate further emphasizing Russia’s interest in developing bilateral ties with regard to the Korean Peninsula as a whole. 

He also expressed his wariness towards the situation in the US by saying that American companies are getting weapons from other countries for deployment in the conflict zone in Ukraine, a situation that he said Russian authorities were following closely.  

Such remarks could be read to mean that Russia will not tolerate any situation in which South Korea directly provides arms to Ukraine. 

Putin expressed that it was unfortunate that trade and economic relations between his country and South Korea were being affected negatively, but was optimistic that by partially preserving the level of relations achieved over the past decades, those relations can be restored in the future. 

“Today, unfortunately, certain problems have been created in many areas of our cooperation, which is a pity,” Putin said. “But this is not our choice. It is the choice of the Korean leadership. The channel is open on our side, and we are ready.” 

Russia designated South Korea an unfriendly country in late February 2022 after Seoul joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. 

Putin's comments are seen as a relatively conciliatory gesture to South Korea. Previously, in October 2022, Putin had sounded a warning in his speech at the annual Valdai International Discussion Club, saying, “We have learned now that the Republic of Korea has decided to supply weapons and ammunition to Ukraine,” and describing such a decision as one that “will be destroying our relations.” 

Such remarks were followed by media reports early in 2023 which raised the possibility that South Korea would be providing Ukraine with weapons by loaning 155 mm artillery shells to the US, which would allow the US to provide its own supplies to Ukraine. 

The Wall Street Journal later reported that South Korea had begun the process of providing artillery shells to Ukraine following President Yoon Suk-yeol’s state visit to the US in late April, and South Korea-Russia relations have since been frosty. 

Putin confirmed that Russia would continue to strengthen ties with North Korea, saying, “We will continue to develop bilateral relations with North Korea, our neighbor, whether someone likes it or not.” 

When asked about the decision of the US and other countries to allow Ukraine to use weapons they supplied to attack Russian territory, Putin warned, “We reserve the right to act in the same way.” 

“For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use [nuclear weapons]. We have a nuclear doctrine, look what it says. If someone's actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible for us to use all means at our disposal. This should not be taken lightly, superficially,” Putin added. 

Putin was referring to the “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence,” a nuclear doctrine published in June 2020. The doctrine states that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in “response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction [. . .]  as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.” 

By Hong Seock-jae, staff reporter 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr

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