Send to

EU’s top diplomat corrects he ‘explains’ Ukraine’s needs for ammunition to S.Korea

S.Korean defense chiefs also meet his counterparts from Canada, Germany and Netherlands

June 4, 2023 - 18:10 By Ji Da-gyum
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (right) shakes hands with Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, as they meet at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. (Yonhap)

SINGAPORE – The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, clarified Sunday that he "explained Ukraine's needs for ammunition" to the South Korean defense minister, correcting his statement on the bilateral talks.

The correction came hours after South Korea's Defense Ministry issued a statement and said there was no discussion between Defense Minister Lee and Borrell regarding ammunition support for Ukraine. Both held a separate meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore on Saturday.

"While the EU side mentioned the need for various weapon systems and other support to improve the security situation in Ukraine, it unilaterally expressed its stance that ammunition is particularly important," the ministry said.

"But ammunition support for Ukraine was part of topics for discussion, so there were no further conversations on the matter."

Borrell said Saturday that he and Lee "shared alarm at continued DPRK provocations and discussed Ukraine's needs for ammunition" on his Twitter. He used the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

"We are working together to build a new security and defense partnership, following up on our successful summit," he added.

His Tweet has briefly sparked debates once again about a potential change in South Korea's stance on supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine.

South Korea has stated that it is challenging for the country to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine considering the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. Instead, Seoul has provided nonlethal military aid and equipment to Kyiv.

Lee also held one-on-one meetings with his counterparts from Canada, Germany and the Netherlands during the three-day Shangri-La dialogue that ended on Sunday.

The defense leaders of South Korea and Germany on Sunday agreed to "continue to strengthen defense cooperation to uphold the rules-based international order," based on their shared values.

Defense Minister Lee and his German counterpart Boris Pistorius held a meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a top defense meeting in Asia, which took place in Singapore. This marked the first defense ministerial meeting between South Korea and Germany since May 2021.

During the meeting, both sides discussed ways to enhance defense and arms industry cooperation, acknowledging the longstanding cooperative relationship between the two countries as traditional friendly countries.

Notably, the ministers recognized the active cooperation between their naval forces. Furthermore, they agreed to continue promoting military exchanges and cooperation, such as mutual port visits and joint participation in multinational training exercises in the latter half of the year.

Lee and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand also held a meeting on Saturday and agreed to actively work towards expanding the scope of cooperation, including in the defense industry, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

This agreement is particularly significant as the Canadian delegation visited South Korean defense contractors in May, and as the Canadian Navy is currently considering the purchase of up to 12 new submarines. The meeting between the defense ministers signals the intent to strengthen collaboration in defense-related areas, with a specific focus on potential cooperation in the defense industry.

The defense cooperation was also the main agenda during a separate meeting between Lee and Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren on the same day, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

During the meeting, Ollongren saw that "both countries will conclude a memorandum of understanding on defense industry cooperation soon," expressing her hope to further develop defense industry cooperation with South Korea.