Russia’s actions will dictate what weapons Seoul may supply to Ukraine, security adviser says

Posted on : 2024-06-24 17:41 KST Modified on : 2024-06-24 17:41 KST
Seoul warned that it would not be bound by any restrictions on assistance to Ukraine if Moscow supplies North Korea with high-precision weapons
National Security Office Director Chang Ho-jin, heads to the lectern at the presidential office briefing room to give a statement on the recent pact signed by North Korea and Russia on June 20, 2024. (Yonhap)
National Security Office Director Chang Ho-jin, heads to the lectern at the presidential office briefing room to give a statement on the recent pact signed by North Korea and Russia on June 20, 2024. (Yonhap)

Seoul stated on Sunday that a transfer of high-precision weapons from Russia to North Korea would mean there are “no red lines left” for Seoul when it comes to assistance to Ukraine, and warned that Moscow’s actions going forward could dictate a change in the makeup of Seoul’s weapons support to Ukraine. 

The statement, which came from national security adviser Chang Ho-jin, essentially reiterated the South Korean government's warning that if Russia, which agreed to strengthen its military cooperation with North Korea at a recent summit between the countries’ leaders, provides Pyongyang with advanced weaponry, Seoul could also provide Ukraine with a variety of weapons, including lethal ones, without restrictions.

During an appearance on the KBS program “Sunday Diagnosis” that morning, Chang emphasized that how South Korea responds “depends on what Russia does.” He added that while the South Korean government is considering various weapons to provide to Ukraine, including both lethal and non-lethal ones, it is “premature to specify what might be given as it could weaken our leverage over Russia.”

Previously, on Thursday, the South Korean government condemned the signing of a treaty cementing a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between North Korea and Russia, in which the two sides agreed to greatly increase their military cooperation, including the sending of military assistance in the event one side is “put in a state of war by an armed invasion.” The government also announced its plan to reconsider providing weapon support to Ukraine that same day. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately warned that sending lethal weapons to Ukraine would be a “big mistake,” hinting at the possibility of supplying North Korea with high-precision weapons.

Chang explained on “Sunday Diagnosis” that while Putin, in remarks he made at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, did initially warn Seoul against supplying lethal weapons to Kyiv, the Russian president later assured South Korea that the treaty is not something it has to worry about. Chang added that he believes Putin was “trying to explain the content of the treaty to us.” 

Moreover, Chang emphasized that Russia's recent actions are “approaching a red line,” adding, “If Russia wants to restore and develop South Korea-Russia relations post-Ukraine war, it should think carefully.”
Chang also stated, “The issue of military cooperation between Russia and North Korea has already become an international issue, moving beyond the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia to include Europe as well.” He predicted that the North Korea-Russia issue would be discussed at the upcoming NATO summit in the United States next month.

Regarding China's stance on the closeness between North Korea and Russia, Chang simply stated, “It would be better to let China make its own decisions and choose its own path rather than pressing the country [to choose a certain path],” without further specifics. 

On recent reports that Japan had secret contact with North Korea in Mongolia, he said, “We have heard Japan’s explanation,” and predicted that “a summit between Japan and North Korea would be difficult, given their differences over the abduction issue.”

By Jang Na-rye, staff reporter

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