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'Anything' South Korea can do for Ukraine's defense ability will be 'warmly welcomed': NATO official

By Yonhap

Published : July 10, 2024 - 09:28

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President Yoon Suk Yeol gives an address during a meeting with ethnic Koreans at the Sheraton Waikiki hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Monday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol gives an address during a meeting with ethnic Koreans at the Sheraton Waikiki hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Monday. (Yonhap)

"Anything" that South Korea can provide to help strengthen Ukraine's defense capabilities will be "warmly welcomed," a senior NATO official said Tuesday, stressing the "strategic" implications of Russia's war in Ukraine for both Europe and Asia.

The official made the remarks as Seoul has said it would reconsider its policy ban on the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine following last month's summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

At the summit, the two sides signed a "comprehensive strategic partnership" treaty, which has further deepened concerns about their growing military alignment and its implications for security.

"As far as South Korea providing weapons to Ukraine, I think that ultimately, we all have an interest in ensuring that Russia does not achieve a victory here, and I think that the outcome of this conflict has strategic implications in Europe, and it has strategic implications in Asia," the official said in a press briefing.

"I think that anything that South Korea can do -- that improves Ukraine's ability to defend itself against an illegal invasion from Vladimir Putin -- is something that would be warmly welcomed," he added.

The briefing took place as the leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies are set to attend a summit in Washington this week. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and the leaders of three other Indo-Pacific countries -- Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- have been invited to the summit.

Asked to comment on the future of arms transactions between Moscow and Pyongyang, the official noted that "the biggest thing" that Russia needs from the North at this point are artillery munitions and ballistic missiles.

"Those are the two things that they are getting from North Korea now and certainly making use of on the battlefield," he said. "We've seen North Korean missiles being used and, and we see them having an impact there."

Washington has revealed that the North provided Russia with more than 11,000 containers of munitions and related material and dozens of ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine.

In return, the North has been seeking assistance from Moscow, including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles and ballistic missile production equipment, according to US officials.

In a separate briefing, another senior NATO official pointed out that NATO and its Indo-Pacific partners are facing a "very similar" set of issues that have created momentum for their cooperation.

"They face, in many ways, a quite similar set of issues. They face at least one big authoritarian country which is testing the international rules-based order, which is using military coercion to try and achieve political goals," the official said.

"They face similar issues in terms of rebuilding military capabilities so that they are themselves able to ensure deterrence and defense. They have to also think about the changing nuclear picture with both North Korea and China and they're dealing with hybrid threats," he added.

The official also said that South Korea has become an "important industrial partner" for many NATO allies.

"It's not some, per se, about NATO getting involved in the Indo-Pacific directly, but it's about facing a very similar set of issues learning from each other and supporting each other," he said.

The leaders of NATO's Indo-Pacific partners are set to participate in talks on Thursday to discuss a range of issues, including resilience, efforts to counter disinformation, technological cooperation and cybersecurity, a US official has said. (Yonhap)