Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an abrupt warning to South Korea on Thursday.
Putin reportedly said that South Korea has decided to supply weapons and ammunition to Ukraine and that this will destroy South Korea-Russia relations. His words came at the 19th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow.
But this is not true.
South Korea's support for Ukraine has been limited to such materials as helmets and blankets as well as medical supplies and medicines.
The South Korean government has maintained a position not to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine. It has turned down Kyiv's requests for such weapons.
"We've provided humanitarian and peaceful assistance to Ukraine in solidarity with the international community," President Yoon Suk-yeol told reporters as he arrived for work Friday. "But in any case, it's a matter of our sovereignty. I'd like you to know that we are trying to maintain peaceful and good relations with all countries around the world, including Russia."
Putin’s words seem to have something to do with the Ukraine war situation. The Russian leader might have said so with an intention of warning against providing weapons to Ukraine. Even so, his threatening remarks to South Korea were baseless and inappropriate.
In the meeting, Putin emphasized cooperation with China, India and North Korea. He criticized the US for changing its position on North Korea at the last minute and imposing additional sanctions. He took the side of North Korea. Then he suddenly raised issue with South Korea's support for Ukraine.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted changes in the international situation. Putin's remarks might be part of an attempt to turn changing circumstances to his advantage. However, his words suggest that security issues regarding the Korean Peninsula may be dragged into the Ukraine war situation anytime. Seoul should pay attention and watch changes in the situation closely.
South Korea should join the international community’s efforts to stop the tragedy of the invasion of Ukraine, but it should keep in mind that if confrontation deepens between South Korea, the US and Japan on one side and North Korea, China and Russia on the other, peace on the Korean Peninsula will be further threatened.
Elaborate diplomatic responses are needed to prevent a confrontation with Russia and China.
The US Department of Defense released its 2022 National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review on Thursday. In the documents, the US viewed China, Russia and North Korea as threats to its security. North Korea continues to expand its nuclear and missile capability to threaten the US, deployed US forces and South Korea and Japan.
In the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, the US reiterated its firm stance in the case of North Korea using its nuclear weapons against Washington or its allies. "Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the US or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime, the report said. "There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive."
However, as if it laughed at the warning, the North fired two ballistic missiles toward the East Sea on Oct. 28, the last day of Seoul's Hoguk military exercise. It was the North's 14th ballistic missile provocation since the Yoon administration was launched on May 10.
China's external strategy has turned tougher since Chinese President Xi Jinping secured his precedent-busting third term as the leader of the country at its recently concluded 20th Communist Party Congress.
Putin singled out South Korea and made threatening remarks out of the blue.
North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons preemptively and continues to test-fire ballistic missiles. It is hard to erase concerns that the Korean Peninsula may be turning into a flash point. South Korea must have its eyes wide open to threats and secure effective measures of deterrence.