‘We don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win’: NATO urges South Korea to to send Ukraine weapons
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea to send weapons to Ukraine. South Korean law prohibits the export of weapons to countries in conflict. South Korea opened its first diplomatic mission to NATO in 2022.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday asked South Korea to “intensify” military support for Ukraine, suggesting it reconsider its policy of not exporting arms to countries in conflict.
Stoltenberg is in Seoul on the first leg of his Asia trip, which will also take in Japan, as part of an effort to strengthen ties with the region’s democratic allies in the face of the Ukraine conflict and growing competition from China.
He met top South Korean officials on Sunday, and on Monday urged Seoul to do more to help Kiev, saying there was an “urgent need for more ammunition”.
He pointed to countries such as Germany and Norway that have “long-standing policies of not exporting weapons to countries in conflict”, which they revised after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
“If we believe in freedom, democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, they need weapons,” he said, speaking at the Chey Institute in Seoul.
South Korea is an increasingly important arms exporter worldwide and recently signed agreements to sell hundreds of tanks to European countries, including NATO member Poland.
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But South Korean law prohibits the export of weapons to countries in active conflict, which Seoul says makes it difficult to supply weapons directly to Kiev, although it has provided non-lethal and humanitarian aid.
South Korea opened its first diplomatic mission to NATO last year.
Stoltenberg said it was “extremely important that President Putin does not win this war”, saying it would make the world a more dangerous place.
Because then the message to authoritarian leaders, also in this part of the world, in Beijing, will be that the use of force is the way to get what you want.
He said that NATO does not view China as an “adversary” and believes in engagement on issues from arms control to climate change.
Nato allies still trade with China, he said, but added the recent lessons from Europe’s vulnerabilities over Russian gas were a key lesson not to become “too dependent on authoritarian powers”.
“We are very clear that China poses a challenge to our values and to our interests and to our security and there are many reasons for that,” he said, pointing to the repression of Hong Kong and Beijing’s treatment of minorities on the mainland.
“China does not share our values. China and the rulers in Beijing do not believe in democracy, freedom of speech and our democratic values,” he said.
“China is also a challenge because we see that China is investing heavily in mobile military capabilities, including long-range missiles that can reach the entire NATO area and also this region,” he added.
Stoltenberg said it was unclear when the conflict in Ukraine would end, saying Putin was preparing for “more war” and was actively acquiring weapons from countries including North Korea.
Pyongyang has denied sending weapons to Moscow and said on Sunday that the US would face a “really undesirable result” if it continued to spread the “homemade rumour”.
“Smearing the image of (North Korea) by fabricating a non-existent thing is a serious provocation that can never be allowed and will only trigger its response,” said Kwon Jong Gun , director general of the North’s Department of American Affairs. .
He also calls it “a foolish attempt to justify his offer of arms to Ukraine”.
Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden pledged 31 Abrams tanks, one of the most powerful and sophisticated weapons in the US military, to help Kiev fight Moscow’s invasion.