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S. Korea summons Russian ambassador over commentary on Yoon's remark

Feb. 3, 2024 - 12:06 By Yonhap
President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a public debate that touched upon the issue of medical reform at the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday. (Presidential office)

South Korea's foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the top Russian envoy to Seoul to protest a recent statement by a Russian foreign ministry official on President Yoon Suk Yeol's view of the North Korean regime.

On Wednesday, Yoon described North Korea as the only country in the world to legalize the preemptive use of nuclear weapons as tensions escalated over a series of weapons tests by the North since the start of the year.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized Yoon's remarks as being "blatantly biased" in a commentary released the following day.

Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won summoned the Russian ambassador to South Korea, Georgy Zinoviev, to lodge a protest over the spokesperson's remark.

During the meeting, Chung expressed "deep regret" over criticizing the remark by the president with disrespectful language and that such actions could further deteriorate the bilateral relationship.

Zinoviev responded that he would immediately report the South Korean government's position to his home country.

Earlier in the day, the foreign ministry also released a separate statement.

"For a remark by a foreign ministry spokesperson of a country, (it) is below standards, rude, ignorant and biased," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a text message sent to reporters Saturday. "These remarks ignore the clear and objective reality that North Korea's threatening rhetoric and continued military provocations heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the region."

The ministry called the Russian official's remarks "repulsive sophistry" when viewed from the standards of a country that follows international norms.

Meanwhile, it criticized the Russian leader's description of the invasion of Ukraine as a "special military operation" as nothing more than a "far-fetched" attempt to mislead the international community.

The rebuke came amid recently deepening ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, with Washington and its allies accusing the North of supplying weapons to Russia to fuel its war against Ukraine.

In recent weeks, North Korea has also ratcheted up tensions with harsh rhetoric against Seoul and with its persistent weapons tests, including what it called a "cruise missile super-large warhead" and a "new-type anti-aircraft missile" on Friday.

Last September, the North enshrined in its constitution an aggressive nuclear policy embracing preemptive strike options. (Yonhap)