Seoul approved Poland’s export of howitzers with South Korean parts to Ukraine, official says

Seoul approved Poland's export of howitzers with South Korean parts to Ukraine, official says

South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol said at the time that South Korea, a US ally, had not provided any weapons. His administration says it has no plans to change that policy.

Yoon has said South Korean law makes it difficult to directly sell weapons to countries in active conflict. Seoul has also been reluctant to anger Russia despite growing pressure from the United States and NATO countries to provide weapons and ammunition.

“We obviously think South Korea should be doing more, and we have been communicating that to the Yoon administration regularly,” a Western diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters.

During a visit to Seoul in January, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea to increase military support to Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy of not providing weapons to countries in conflict following Russia’s invasion.

The head of DAPA has the right to decide what to export, but in practice, it’s up to the president’s will as well, said Yang Uk, research fellow and defence expert at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“A government has to consider all positions including the foreign ministry’s position, diplomacy, as well as economic considerations,” he said. “If Korea supports Ukraine, Russia may retaliate by selling up-to-date aircraft to North Korea or transfer technology that North Korea really needs.”

South Korea has benefited from Europe’s rush to rearm, signing a massive US$5.8 billion arms deal with Poland last year for hundred of Chunmoo rocket launchers, K2 tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzers, and FA-50 fighter aircraft.

Kim said Poland would need further South Korean permission to provide any of those new weapons to Ukraine. DAPA officials previously stressed that those sales are for boosting Poland’s defences, rather than helping Ukraine.

South Korea’s sensitivity over the issue has been highlighted by a deal to sell 155mm artillery shells to the United States. Officials in Washington have said they want to send the ammunition to Ukraine, but South Korea insists that the United States must be the end user.

A spokesman for South Korea’s ministry of defence said negotiations for that deal are ongoing.