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Transfer of US munition stockpiles in S. Korea to Ukraine won’t affect readiness: Pentagon

Jan. 20, 2023 - 17:04 By Ji Da-gyum

An eight-wheeled U.S. Stryker combat vehicle rolls down a hill during a joint exercise with the South Korean Army`s TIGER Demonstration Brigade at the Mugeon-ri training ground in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Jan. 13, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)
The United States’ transfer of its munitions stockpiles in South Korea to Ukraine will not affect the readiness posture of the US Forces Korea, the US Department of Defense said Thursday.

The Pentagon underscored that the diversion of munitions stored in South Korea is in line with the Pentagon’s efforts to quickly provide ammunition, materials, capabilities, and equipment to Ukraine for use in the war against Russia.

“We have been working with ROK and Israel when it comes to withdrawing from our stocks and communicating that with them,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told a press briefing, referring to South Korea by the acronym of its official name, Republic of Korea.

“But that doesn’t mean it impacts our readiness. That doesn’t impact our capabilities to protect Americans here at home and — or abroad. And so we feel confident on what we have been able to withdraw and what we have been able to get to the Ukrainians.”

The confirmation came after the New York Times on Tuesday reported a sizable portion of over one million 155-millimeter shells that the US has sent or committed to dispatching to Ukraine has come from its inventories in South Korea and Israel.

Seoul and Washington have been in discussion over sending ammunition from the US stockpiles in South Korea to Ukraine, an official at South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed during a closed-door briefing on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the US sent its artillery shells from its stockpiles in South Korea to Ukraine in early November, although the Pentagon did not officially confirm the media report.

Both the USFK and South Korea’s Defense Ministry declined to confirm whether ammunition had been delivered to Ukraine. The two also refused to clarify whether they have been discussing an additional shipment of US artillery shells stored in South Korea to Ukraine.

The USFK solely confirmed that it has been asked to join the US’s efforts to “provide military assistance from its inventories in support of Ukraine” in a written statement on Thursday.

“United States Forces Korea has been requested to support this effort by providing some of its equipment,” USFK spokesperson Col. Isaac Taylor said, without further details. “This has zero impact on our operations and our ability to execute on our ironclad commitment to the defense of our Ally, the Republic of Korea. There should be no doubt that we remain ready to ‘fight tonight.’”

Seoul and Washington also have been in “discussions about potential sales of ammunition to the United States by the ROK non-government industrial defense base,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners said in a written statement.

The US plans to purchase 100,000 rounds of 155-mm artillery ammunition from South Korea to replenish its depleted weapons stocks sent to Ukraine.

“Any potential sale or transfer of equipment will be closely evaluated against current and future US and ROK military readiness requirements on the peninsula, and will not detract from our defensive posture or response capability against regional threats,” Meiner said.