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(LEAD) Decision on lethal aid to Ukraine depends on Russia's actions: presidential office

Diplomacy 16:00 April 20, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office said Thursday that any decision on whether to provide lethal aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia will depend on Moscow's actions.

President Yoon Suk Yeol signaled a shift in South Korea's policy of providing only non-lethal aid to Ukraine in an interview with Reuters published the previous day, saying it might be difficult to insist only on humanitarian or financial assistance if Ukraine comes under a large-scale attack on civilians.

The Kremlin warned that supplying military aid to Ukraine would mean Seoul becoming involved in the conflict to a certain extent.

"The president's words were a common sense and principled response," a senior presidential official told reporters. "The Russian authorities are commenting on something that isn't happening, but we can think of it in reverse, that what we do in the future will depend on Russia's actions."

The presidential office in Seoul (Yonhap)

The presidential office in Seoul (Yonhap)

The official said Yoon was referring to a hypothetical situation where the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is considered serious by everyone in the international community.

"He put it in hypothetical terms of how could South Korea sit back and watch in such a hypothetical situation?" the official said.

The official noted that the contents of South Korea's assistance to Ukraine has not changed, though there is nothing in South Korean law that prohibits the supply of weapons to a country at war.

"The reason we are not taking such action voluntarily is because we want to simultaneously and in a balanced manner fulfill the task of stably maintaining and managing South Korea-Russia relations while actively joining the ranks of the international community in defending the freedom of the Ukrainian people," he said.

The official recalled that the "free world" came to South Korea's aid when it was nearly wiped out during the 1950-53 Korean War.

"If Ukraine is in such a situation, shouldn't South Korea look at Ukraine reflecting on the gratitude it feels for becoming a central nation in the world with the help of the international community?" he said.

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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