South Korean law prohibits the export of weapons to countries in active conflict. With this, Seoul found it difficult to deliver weapons directly to Kyiv.
South Korea is quiet favorite of gun buyers around the world. And this was achieved during the country’s decades of efforts to protect itself from North Korea. The threat that never goes away forces Seoul to build a domestic arms industry. And in the end, this sector achieves economies of scale obtained from large export sales.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there has been a drastic increase in South Korea’s ranking in terms of arms sales. In 2000, the country was still in 31st place in terms of arms supply. This ranking skyrocketed to eighth in the period 2017 to 2021.
South Korea is an increasingly important arms exporter globally. They recently even signed a deal to sell hundreds of tanks to European countries, including Poland which is a member of NATO.
On the first leg of his Asia tour on Monday (30/1/2023), 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.
Stoltenberg was speaking in Seoul, the first stop on a trip that will also include Japan and is aimed at strengthening ties with Western allies in Asia in the face of the war in Ukraine and rising competition with China.
Stoltenberg’s visit is seen as part of efforts to improve NATO’s relations with Asian regional democracy allies in the face of the Ukraine conflict and increasing competition with China.
Stoltenberg urged South Korea to do more to help Ukraine. According to him, in Ukraine, there is an urgent need for more supplies of ammunition. In his talks with South Korea, Stoltenberg also mentioned that several countries, such as Germany and Norway, had finally decided to revise the old policy of not exporting weapons to countries in conflict due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“If we believe in freedom, democracy, if we don’t want autocracies and totalitarians to win then they need weapons,” he said speaking at the Chey Institute in Seoul.
NATO and the United States are trying to drag their allies to the brink of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This situation triggers a change toward global conflict.
“NATO dragging South Korea ever deeper into the abyss of aid over Ukraine is measuring how determined Seoul is to join the US-led military alliance. Its ultimate aim is to widen the loop towards Asia Pacific through regional allies,” the Global Times published on Tuesday (31/1/2023).
NATO, behind the scenes of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, was trying to convince its allies to form a bigger camp to provide political and military support to Ukraine. All NATO allies and the US must provide whatever assistance Ukraine requires. South Korea as a country that is considered advanced in the field of military industry must provide greater arms assistance to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought Western support for his country in surprise visits to Britain and France on Wednesday (8/2/23), in a dramatic speech to the UK Parliament, and then flying to Paris to meet the French and German leaders over dinner at the Elysee Palace.