South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol indicated on Thursday that his country’s decision to sell lethal aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia will depend on Moscow’s actions. According to the Yonhap news agency, this marks a shift in South Korea’s policy of providing only humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Yoon signaled for the first time that he may soften his position on selling weapons to Ukraine, explaining that his government may no longer “insist only on humanitarian or financial support,” should Russia embark on a large-scale attack on civilians or another “situation the international community cannot condone.”
Yoon has compared Ukraine’s struggle against Russia to the Korean War of 1950-53, in which the international community supported South Korea. He told Reuters: “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. However, considering our relationship with the parties engaged in the war and developments on the battlefield, we will take the most appropriate measures.”
Whatever that means.
Yoon is scheduled to start his official US visit on Monday, the first by a South Korean president since 2011. Since taking office in May 2022, Yoon, a conservative, has maintained a tense relationship with his country’s hostile neighbor North Korea. His predecessor, President Moon Jae-in, is a liberal who promoted negotiations with North Korea.
Yoon and Biden are likely to discuss support for Ukraine, with the US president pressuring his South Korean peer to become involved in arming Ukraine in its battle against Russian forces.
Needless to say, Russia is very concerned over the possibility that one of the world’s major military-industrial complexes––South Korea is a huge producer of artillery ammunition––would start supporting its enemy to the west, and so, TASS quoted a South Korean senior presidential official who said, “The reason we are not doing it lies in the necessity to maintain stability in Russian-South Korean relations while supporting the international community’s policy on protecting the freedom of Ukrainian people.”
“We can think of it in reverse, that what we do in the future will depend on Russia,” the same senior official said.
President Yoon is a conservative nationalist and supports South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons to meet the ongoing threats of North Korea.