South Korea On Defensive After Secret Deal To Supply Munitions For Ukraine Exposed

South Korea is insistent that its official policy of not sending arms to the Ukraine conflict has remain unchanged, even as news is breaking of a secret deal to sell 100,000 artillery shells to the United States, who then reportedly intends to transfer them to Ukraine

News of the controversial deal was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. "South Korea will for the first time sell artillery shells destined for Ukrainian forces through a confidential arms deal between Seoul and Washington, a move that reflects a global scramble for munitions after months of war with Russia."

"US officials familiar with the deal said that the U.S. will purchase 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition that will be delivered to Ukraine, enough to supply Ukraine’s artillery units for at least several weeks of intensive combat," the report continues.

South Korea On Defensive After Secret Deal To Supply Munitions For Ukraine Exposed
President Yoon Suk Yeol, via AFP

A US official confirmed separately to Reuters on Friday that the Pentagon indeed plans to send the South Korean-manufactured shells to the Ukrainian army, utilizing the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).

And interestingly, "The official warned that news of the talks being made public could threaten the deal."

The confidential plan being made public has already put Seoul on the defensive, with South Korean military officials asserting that the "confidential" negotiations were being conducted "under the premise that the US is the end user."

The defense ministry is framing it as making up for deficiencies in US stocks. "In order to make up for the shortage of 155mm ammunition inventories in the US, negotiations are ongoing between the US and Korean companies to export ammunition," a statement said. And more

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday that the country’s defence minister Lee Jong-sup and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had "agreed ‘in principle’ to proceed with the artillery deal" during talks earlier this month.

"But the allies are having related talks under the premise that the materials will be used by the US," Yonhap reported, citing a statement from the country’s defence ministry.

Last month South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's responded to warnings from Russia's President Vladimir Putin that arming Ukraine would destroy bilateral ties.

"We’ve provided humanitarian and peaceful assistance to Ukraine in solidarity with the international community but never lethal weapons or any such things,” Yoon said at the time. "In any case, it’s a matter of our sovereignty, and I’d like you to know that we are trying to maintain peaceful and good relations with all countries around the world, including Russia."

Controversy has also raged regarding North Korea. Pyongyang has long stood accused by Washington of doing secret weapons transfers to the Russian military, something both sides have denied. US intelligence has charged that North Korea is seeking to carefully conceal these shipments, however, there's been no evidence of such large scale arms or artillery transfers.

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