Yoon says Russia must choose between South Korea or North

Posted on : 2024-07-09 17:29 KST Modified on : 2024-07-09 17:29 KST
In an interview with Reuters, the South Korean president suggested that Russia should choose which Korea “is more important and necessary for its own interests”
President Yoon Suk-yeol waves goodbye as he and first lady Kim Keon-hee board the presidential jet on July 8, 2024, at Seoul Air Base to fly to the United States for a NATO summit. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol waves goodbye as he and first lady Kim Keon-hee board the presidential jet on July 8, 2024, at Seoul Air Base to fly to the United States for a NATO summit. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said that Russia should choose where its interests lie between the two Koreas in an interview with Reuters ahead of the NATO summit this week. The comment came as a direct warning to Russia, which recently bolstered military cooperation with North Korea to the level of a military alliance.
“North Korea is clearly a menace to the international society,” Yoon said in a written interview with Reuters published Monday. “The future of ROK-Russia relations depends entirely on Russia's actions.”

When North Korea and Russia signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, which effectively restored a military alliance between the two countries, on June 19, the South Korean government sent a warning to Russia by announcing that it would reconsider its policy of not supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons. This is the first time since then that Yoon has commented directly on the matter, making his stance clear in pointed remarks aimed at Russia. 
“Military co-operation between Russia and North Korea poses a distinct threat and grave challenge to the peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in Europe,” Yoon said, going on to emphasize the government’s current policy by stating that South Korea will look at “the level and substance of military co-operation between Russia and North Korea,” including areas such as arms dealing, transfers of military technology and assistance with strategic materials before making a decision on arms assistance to Ukraine.
He added that there would be clear “negative” ramifications for Seoul-Moscow relations if Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council that had approved sanctions resolutions on North Korea until 2017, continues to violate UN resolutions.
When asked about possible changes to US policies if Donald Trump returns to the Oval Office a second time in November, Yoon declined to comment, only saying, “The [US-South Korea] alliance will stay strong going forward.”
The presidential office also stated that Yoon, in response to questions about the possibility of developing nuclear weapons or the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula not disclosed in the interview, stated, “The most realistic and ideal solution to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats is to firmly establish the extended deterrence system between South Korea and the US.”
Yoon departed the country on Monday night to attend the 2024 NATO summit in Washington, which is to be held from Tuesday to Thursday. This marks Yoon’s third consecutive attendance at a NATO summit.
The presidential office told reporters that the president will “send a strong message condemning the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea” while also “discussing ways to cooperate between NATO allies and our Asia-Pacific partners,” referring to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. There is speculation that a joint document could be issued outlining expanded cooperation between NATO and its four Asia-Pacific partners.

By Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter

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