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Putin’s Warning to Seoul: Hands Off Ukraine or Risk Korean Peninsula Fallout

Daniel Kim Views  

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The South Korean government strongly warned against the strategic partnership treaty between North Korea and Russia, which was equivalent to a military alliance. On the 20th, when the full text of the North Korea-Russia pact specifying military support in emergencies was made public, the South Korean government held a standing committee meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). It warned that it could “reconsider weapon support to Ukraine.” This is based on the judgment that Russia has crossed the red line. It is reported that a legal and administrative review related to weapon support for Ukraine has been completed. On the 21st, the South Korean government summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the pact.

Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately responded to our countermeasure that South Korea could supply weapons to Ukraine. He threatened, “Supplying lethal weapons directly to Ukraine would be a big mistake,” and “If such actions were taken, we will make corresponding decisions.”

North Korea and Russia revived a military pact that was abolished after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assitance between the Soviet Union and North Korea was signed in 1961 and was abolished in 1996. In 2000, North Korea and Russia signed a Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness, and Cooperation, which omitted the clause on automatic military intervention. However, 24 years later, Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un restored a military pact that included automatic military intervention in emergencies.

This is a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolution. North Korea hopes to transfer strategic weapons technology from Russia, such as nuclear-powered submarines, reconnaissance satellites, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The close connection between North Korea and Russia, including military intervention, could stimulate North Korea’s local provocation against the South and pose a severe threat to the security of the Korean Peninsula. Our tough response to Russia is justified.

While South Korea criticizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we do not seek to sever relations with Russia, with whom we have diplomatic ties. We are also refraining from direct involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war, believing that the losses outweigh the gains. We have not provided lethal weapons to Ukraine, only supporting non-lethal humanitarian items such as combat rations, bulletproof vests, and gas masks. Earlier this month, President Putin said, “I am grateful that South Korea is not supplying weapons to Ukraine,” suggesting the restoration of severed economic and diplomatic relations.

With the signing of the North Korea-Russia pact, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration faces a challenge in security diplomacy. It must overcome the new Cold War trend of US-China confrontation and close ties between North Korea and Russia. It must fully demonstrate diplomatic and security capabilities that prioritize national interests. Above all, South Korea must have various options for a strong response. Our economic power, ranking in the top 10 in the world, world-class defense and manufacturing technology, and production capacity are our strengths. They can form the basis of our diplomatic and security power.

We must consider all situations that need technology exchange, including post-war economic recovery and economic cooperation with Russia. A cooling-off period may be necessary between the two countries. While strongly restraining the close ties between North Korea and Russia, we must also be wary of excessive tension. Until the Western sanctions against Russia, we had economic cooperation and trade with Russia in various fields, including the automotive sector. We also import about 2 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia annually.

Russia cannot ignore South Korea’s opposition. If we join forces with ally countries like the United States and Japan to counter the dangerous collusion between North Korea and Russia, we can increase our response capabilities. China is also uncomfortable with the North Korea-Russia military alliance. Restraining the close ties between the two countries through diplomatic cooperation with China is a very effective strategy. South Korea must prioritize national interests and demonstrate proactive diplomatic power.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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