Russia on Wednesday threatened South Korea not to begin providing weapons to Ukraine and unsubtly indicated it would reciprocate with new military support for North Korea should Seoul follow through on its current considerations.
“South Korea is well aware of the imminent negative effects produced by its eventual decision to join the group of ‘military sponsors’ of the Kiev regime and to supply it with lethal weapons,” the Russian Embassy in South Korea wrote on Telegram in a post filled with well-trod Kremlin conspiracy theories about Western military support for the Kyiv in its war against Russia’s invasion. “Such actions would definitely ruin Russian-Korean relations that have seen constructive development for the benefit of both nations over the last three decades.”
“They would also negatively affect our bilateral interaction in the context of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the embassy added, in a nod to Russia’s historic support for the regime in Pyongyang. “We hope that the Government of the Republic of Korea will adopt a responsible approach on this matter.”
The cryptic post came a day after President Yoon Suk Yeol revealed in an interview that South Korea may soon move beyond the financial and humanitarian support it currently provides to Ukraine and consider weapons shipments. Yoon told Reuters in the interview published on Tuesday that he would consider the change “if there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war,” saying it “might be difficult for us” to continue with its self-imposed limits on aid to Kyiv.
“I believe there won’t be limitations to the extent of the support to defend and restore a country that’s been illegally invaded both under international and domestic law,” Yoon told the wire service. “However, considering our relationship with the parties engaged in the war and developments in the battlefield, we will take the most appropriate measures.”
South Korea’s consideration for support to Ukraine has been heavily scrutinized since Russia invaded in February 2022. Despite being a treaty ally of the United States and a significant weapons manufacturer – particularly of ammunition, of which Ukraine is reportedly in short supply – Seoul has so far avoided any action it fears could trigger some sort of response from the Kremlin, despite mounting pressure from the West.
American pressure on South Korea to begin providing weapons to Ukraine has emerged as one of the more embarrassing episodes to come out of the massive and ongoing leak of highly classified U.S. intelligence. Top secret documents revealed in the trove of information shared on popular gaming platform Discord and disseminated through Twitter and Telegram appear to show evidence that U.S. intelligence spied on officials in Seoul, despite the two countries’ alliance, to determine how it might proceed on potential arms shipments.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Wednesday that South Korea will become complicit in the war in Ukraine if it follows through on its considerations.
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“Of course, the start of arms supplies will indirectly mean a certain stage of involvement in this conflict,” Peskov said.
He called South Korea’s position toward Ukraine “unfriendly.”
The testy exchange between Seoul and Moscow comes amid several developments on the battlefields in Ukraine that could affect South Korea’s decision-making and are sure to enrage the Kremlin.
Reports emerged earlier this week that the Wagner Group mercenary front, among the most effective military units doing Putin’s bidding in Ukraine, has begun adopting tactics of purposefully targeting children and other prisoners of war among other apparent war crimes that have attracted new attention to the ongoing fighting there.
The independent Institute for the Study of War issued an analysis note earlier this week based on descriptions of “extremely graphic atrocities” described by two former Wagner mercenaries in an interview with a Russian human rights group published on Monday. The institute noted that the admissions “underscore a slate of recent reports of Wagner’s systematic use of brutality as a method of waging war,” adding that their account also “provides valuable insight into Wagner’s force structure and operational prioritization.”
Separately, high-profile military equipment the U.S. has pledged to Ukraine also began showing up in the conflict zone on Wednesday, notably Bradley fighting vehicles and the sophisticated Patriot missile defense systems on which Ukrainian units have been training at military facilities in the U.S. and in Europe.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov celebrated the Patriots’ arrival as a “dream” that has become realized.
“Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter.
Source : USNews