Russia Ukraine conflict: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg asked South Korea on Monday to reconsider its policy of not exporting weapons to conflict nations in order to assist Ukraine in repelling Russia’s invasion.
Stoltenberg is in Seoul, the first stop on a trip that will also include Japan and is aimed at strengthening ties with US allies in the face of the Ukraine conflict and rising competition from China.
Stoltenberg met with top South Korean officials on Sunday and stated that events in Europe and North America are linked to those in other parts of the world. He added that the alliance wants to help manage global threats by expanding its partnerships in Asia.
He thanked South Korea for its non-lethal aid to Ukraine but urged it to do more, stating that there is an “urgent need” for ammunition. The invasion is being described as a “special operation” by Russia.
“I urge the Republic of Korea to continue and to step up on the specific issue of military support,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a decision for you to make, but I’ll say that several NATO allies who have had as a policy to never export weapons to countries in a conflict have changed that policy now.”
Since the start of the war, South Korea has signed major deals to supply hundreds of tanks, aircraft, and other weapons to Nato member Poland, but South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has stated that it is difficult to provide weapons to Ukraine due to his nation’s law prohibiting providing arms to countries engaged in Russia Ukraine conflict.
Stoltenberg pointed out that countries like Germany, Sweden, and Norway had similar policies but had changed them.
“If we believe in freedom, democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and totalitarian to win then they need weapons,” he said, referring to Ukraine at the Chey Institute in Seoul.
The NATO chief stated that it is “extremely important” that Russia does not win this war, not only for the Ukrainians but also to avoid sending the wrong message to authoritarian leaders, including those in Beijing, that they can get what they want through force.
Although China was not a NATO adversary, it had risen “much higher” on NATO’s agenda, Stoltenberg said, citing Beijing’s rising military capabilities and coercive behavior in the region.
“We believe that we should engage with China on issues like arms control, climate change, and other issues,” he said. “But at the same time, we are very clear that China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests, and to our security.”
North Korea described Stoltenberg’s visit as a “prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a ‘new Cold War’ to the Asia-Pacific region,” according to a statement carried out by state media on Monday. South Korea established its first diplomatic mission to NATO last year, vowing to strengthen cooperation in nonproliferation, cyber defense, and other areas of security.
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