NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday urged South Korea to provide direct military support to Ukraine.
South Korea has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine, and has joined in the global economic sanctions against Russia, but as yet it has not provided arms, citing Seoul’s longstanding policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in battle.
Stoltenberg countered that other nations, like Germany, Norway and Sweden have broken their similar policies to supply military weaponry to Ukraine in its now-11-month-long fight against Russia.
“If we believe in freedom, if we believe in democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they need weapons. That’s the reality,” said Stoltenberg, who arrived in South Korea on Sunday on a trip that also includes Japan.
On Sunday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his plea for more weapons to come at a quicker pace from Ukraine’s allies.
“The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region—there are constant Russian attacks. There are constant attempts to break through our defenses,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, adding, “Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up supplies and open up new weapons options for Ukraine.”
South Korean officials didn’t confirm any specific discussions about sending arms to Ukraine.
However, since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, South Korea has reached billions of dollars worth of deals to provide tanks, howitzers, fighter jets and other weapons systems to NATO member Poland. Further, the U.S. has agreed to buy some 100,000 artillery rounds from South Korean manufacturers to send to Ukraine, according to a U.S. official—although the official line from South Korea was that those munitions were meant to refill depleted U.S. stocks.
The NATO Chief’s comments Monday at a forum in Seoul came hours after North Korea condemned his visits to both South Korea and Japan. A statement by the state-run Korean Central News Agency accused NATO and U.S. allies in Asia of trying to create an “Asian version of NATO” that would raise tensions in the region.
Meanwhile, North Korea has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations that it has been sending large supplies of artillery shells and other ammunition to Russia to support its offensive against Ukraine and on Sunday warned the Biden Administration against this “self-made rumor.”