N. Korea-Russia military deal would constitute “direct provocation” against S. Korea, says Yoon

Posted on : 2023-09-21 16:36 KST Modified on : 2023-09-21 17:56 KST
The South Korean president took aim at Russia and North Korea in his speech before the 78th UN General Assembly in New York
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea delivers a keynote address at the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 20. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea delivers a keynote address at the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 20. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned in an address before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that military transactions between Russia and North Korea would become a “direct provocation threatening the peace and security of not only Ukraine but also the Republic of Korea” if North Korea “acquires the information and technology necessary to enhance its weapon of mass destruction capabilities in exchange for supporting Russia with conventional weapons.”

In addition to his strongly critical remarks about North Korea and Russia, he also warned that the “Republic of Korea, together with its allies and partners, will not stand idly by.”

During his keynote speech before the 78th UN General Assembly in New York City that day, Yoon mentioned evidence that Pyongyang and Moscow discussed weapon transactions during their recent summit.

“The nuclear and missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea pose not only a direct and existential threat to the peace of the Republic of Korea, but also is a serious challenge to peace in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe,” he declared.

In a direct attack on Russia, Yoon also called it “paradoxical that a permanent member of the UN Security Council, entrusted as the ultimate guardian of world peace, would wage war by invading another sovereign nation and receive arms and ammunition from a regime that blatantly violates Security Council resolutions.”

Commenting on the evidence of North Korea-Russia military cooperation at the New York press center the day before, a senior official with the South Korean presidential office stressed that Seoul has “also been observing the military transactions that have been taking place for several months” prior to the North Korea-Russia summit.

In connection with this, the administration summoned Russian Ambassador to South Korea Andrei Borisovich Kulik on Tuesday to voice concerns about the possibility of weapon transactions with North Korea.

Yoon’s speech took on a more sharply critical tone toward Pyongyang and Moscow than his previous UN General Assembly address in September 2022. That address made no direct mention of “North Korea” or the “Korean Peninsula,” placing its emphasis instead on “freedom.”

The change appeared to reflect the increasing entrenchment of a “new Cold War” framework pitting South Korea, the US, and Japan on one side against North Korea, China, and Russia on the other.

Yoon did not mention China directly, in an apparent attempt to avoid provocations that might lead China to align more closely with North Korea and Russia.

Yoon further shared the message that South Korea intended to play a part in upholding global peace and security as a non-permanent UNSC member for 2024–25. Accordingly, it would be contributing more to alleviating issues with three major global “divides” in the areas of development, climate, and digital technology, he said.

“Despite this year’s fiscal austerity measures, the Korean government has raised the ODA budget plan for the upcoming year by over 40 percent,” he noted, adding that South Korea intended to “launch a ‘Carbon Free Alliance’, an open platform that anyone in the world can join to promote the adoption of carbon-free energy.”

Commenting on the digital divide, he stressed, “If we fail to curb the spread of fake news resulting from the misuse of AI and digital technologies, our freedom will be at risk; the market economy anchored in liberal democracy will be in peril; and our very future will be under threat.”

Yoon also underscored the importance of the “Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative” pledged that he announced during a July visit to Kyiv.

“As I pledged at the G20 summit just two weeks ago, Korea will actively support Ukraine’s reconstruction by providing US$300 million next year, and a mid- to long-term support package exceeding US$2 billion,” he said.

In closing, Yoon asked for support for Busan’s bid to host the World Expo 2030 event.

“The basis of Korea’s national and foreign policy is freedom and solidarity,” he said, explaining that the “2030 Busan Expo will serve as a platform to spread freedom in the spirit of solidarity, through which the world citizens can overcome crises and challenges together.”

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

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

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