South Korea denies sending weapons to Ukraine after Putin remarks

President Yoon Suk-yeol said no lethal military aid was sent to Kyiv after Russian president warned of harmed relations.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has denied that Seoul provided any lethal weapons to Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin said such a decision would destroy their bilateral relations.

Putin made the remark at a conference in Moscow on Thursday, accusing the West of inciting the war in Ukraine and stressing that a decision by South Korea to supply weapons to Ukraine would destroy relations, equating such a move to Moscow sending arms to North Korea.

“We’ve provided humanitarian and peaceful assistance to Ukraine in solidarity with the international community but never lethal weapons or any such things,” Yoon told reporters on Friday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

“But 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,” he said.

Seoul had sent bulletproof vests, helmets and other non-lethal military as well as medical supplies to Ukraine and has turned down Kyiv’s requests for weapons, Yonhap reported.

 

A United States ally, South Korea has maintained it would not provide Ukraine with lethal aid and has sought to avoid antagonising Russia, both for economic reasons and the influence Moscow can exert over North Korea.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which began eight months ago, has killed thousands, displaced millions, shaken the global economy and reopened Cold War-era divisions.

At a conference in Moscow on Thursday, Putin defended his war and blamed the US and West for inciting the conflict in Ukraine, adding the West was playing what he described as a “dangerous, bloody and dirty” geopolitical game that is sowing chaos across the world.

Putin had this message for South Korea: “How would the Republic of Korea react to the fact if we started, if we resume cooperation with North Korea in this area?”

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the 19th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow, Russia on October 27, 2022 [Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters]

Asked what he would like to tell people in Europe and the US, Putin answered they should know that Russia is not their enemy.

“Russia is your friend and we have been doing everything for decades and are ready to do everything in the future in order to strengthen our relations,” he said.

Putin also criticised the US for intervening in China’s dispute with Taiwan, which he called “contrary to common sense and logic”.

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