Send to

NATO slams NK-Russia arms trade as Yoon moves to bolster security cooperation

Seoul unlikely to announce new aid package to Ukraine during Yoon's visit to NATO summit

July 11, 2024 - 14:48 By Son Ji-hyoung
Prime Minister of New Zealand Christopher Luxon (From left, front row), South Korea's first lady Kim Keon Hee, President Yook Suk Yeol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are seen during a dinner hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Wednesday expressed "great concern" about the deepening ties between North Korea and Russia, shown in the pact signed in June, and condemned North Korea's weapons exports to Russia, as President Yoon Suk Yeol, who traveled to the United States to attend the NATO summit, moves to bolster security cooperation with NATO member states and other allies.

In a communique released Wednesday, the Washington Summit Declaration, the 32 NATO countries stated that North Korea, together with Iran, is "fueling Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine by providing direct military support to Russia."

The article also states that North Korea's military support for Russia "seriously impacts Euro-Atlantic security and undermines the global (nuclear) non-proliferation regime."

"We strongly condemn the DPRK’s exports of artillery shells and ballistic missiles, which are in violation of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, and note with great concern the deepening ties between the DPRK and Russia," it reads. The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is North Korea's official name.

"The Washington Summit Declaration reaffirmed that the close ties between Russia and North Korea pose a threat to global security," Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of the presidential National Security Office, said in a briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

"Seoul will continue its cooperation with NATO member states and their Indo-Pacific partners to stand up to the threats to all of us that share core values," Kim said.

Upon his arrival in Washington on Wednesday, Yoon held bilateral talks with his counterparts from seven countries who attend the NATO summit this week, including Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Dick Schoof, Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel, President of Finland Alexander Stubb and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The leaders in the bilateral talks "discussed current affairs related to global security such as the continued war in Ukraine and the situation on the Korean Peninsula," Kim said. They also touched upon "ways to team up with each other to address the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea."

Yoon will meet more leaders attending the summit Thursday, according to the presidential office, Yoon plans to hold talks with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland.

The leaders agreed that the arms trade between Pyongyang and Moscow poses a security threat to both Indo-Pacific region and Europe, and pledged to take "bold actions" against the Pyongyang-Moscow ties, according to Kim of the National Security Office.

Yoon and Kishida agreed to cooperate closely with countries on friendly terms to counter the North Korea-Russia ties. Yoon has met his Japanese counterpart 11 times since his inauguration in May 2022. He is third among South Korea's leaders since 1948 in the number of bilateral talks he has had with Japan so far, two years and two months into his five-year term.

First deputy director of the National Security Office Kim Tae-hyo speaks during a briefing held in Washington on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

While all eyes are on whether Yoon would meet US President Joe Biden for talks, Kim said Wednesday evening the White House and South Korea's presidential office "reached a mutual understanding" over the need to sit down for bilateral talks, albeit briefly. Whether Yoon would actually meet Biden has yet to be confirmed as of press time.

Meanwhile, the communique also highlighted in Article 30 the role of NATO's Indo-Pacific partner countries -- namely South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- in dealing with common security challenges.

NATO and the four partner countries will team up with each other "through flagship projects in the areas of supporting Ukraine, cyber defense, countering disinformation and technology," read the article.

These efforts came as Yoon and the leaders of Australia, Japan and New Zealand were invited to the annual multilateral summit for a third consecutive year.

A senior official of the presidential office said on condition of anonymity that one of the outcomes of this year's summit are efforts toward institutionalizing cooperation between the NATO member states and the four Indo-Pacific partners, adding that work was underway to examine which projects NATO members and its partners would jointly take part in.

The official also said that South Korea will "soon be able to establish" a new intelligence-sharing mechanism with NATO authorities that will allow South Korea to keep track of Russia's use of North Korean ammunition or weapons in Ukraine.

But the official added that it would be "unnatural" for South Korea to announce a new set of plans to aid Ukraine during the NATO summit. Yoon had announced a $2.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, including $300 million in humanitarian aid, during the Group of 20 summit in September 2023. In July 2023 after a summit with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, he also pledged $150 million in humanitarian and non-lethal military aid for Ukraine.