South Korea to make ‘big mistake’ by arming Ukraine, warns Putin

Vladimir Putin's threats come just days after agreeing to a defence pact with Kim Jong-un while on a state visit to Pyongyang
Vladimir Putin's threats come just days after agreeing to a defence pact with Kim Jong-un while on a state visit to Pyongyang - Kristina Kormilitsyna/REUTERS

Vladimir Putin warned South Korea that it will be making a “very big mistake” if it sends weapons to Ukraine to defend against Russia.

Moscow would make “decisions which are unlikely to please the current leadership of South Korea” if Seoul decides to supply arms to Kyiv, Putin said on a visit to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

Putin’s threats come just days after agreeing to a defence pact with Kim Jong-un while on a state visit to Pyongyang, in which he praised the North Korean dictator for “firmly supporting” Russia’s war in Ukraine. South Korea’s government issued a diplomatic protest in response and said on Thursday it will review changing its policy to send arms to Kyiv.

The warning also comes as tensions rise at the border between the two Koreas. Troops from the South fired warning shots at soldiers crossing from the North on Thursday morning, Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said on Friday, the third such incident this month.

The demilitarised zone separating the Korean peninsula has remained a flashpoint between the North and South, even decades after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The demise of communism in Europe left Pyongyang with few diplomatic allies aside from China, until a revival of relations with Russia more recently after its invasion of Ukraine.

Tensions rise at the border, as troops from the South fire warning shots at soldiers crossing from the North
Tensions rise at the border, as troops from the South fire warning shots at soldiers crossing from the North - KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS

In response to Moscow’s embrace of Pyongyang, Chang Ho-jin, the South Korean national security advisor, told reporters on Thursday that Seoul will review the possibility of supplying weapons to Ukraine. Currently, it has provided only non-lethal aid such as mine clearance equipment.

South Korea’s presidential office said: “Any cooperation that directly or indirectly helps North Korea increase its military power is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and is subject to monitoring and sanctions by the international community.”

Russia’s agreement with North Korea “should be a concern to any country that cares about maintaining peace and stability,” said John Kirby, the spokesman for the US national security council.

Moscow’s agreement with Pyongyang revives an earlier Cold War-era defence pact. According to North Korean state media, if either country experiences an “armed invasion”, then the other “shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay”.

North Korea’s leadership also signalled it may take action after a balloon launch by anti-Pyongyang activists on Thursday night, floating thousands of propaganda leaflets, US dollar bills, and USB sticks containing K-pop songs and South Korean TV dramas across the border from the South.

Putin with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting in Tsiolkovsky, Russia
Putin with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, during their meeting in Tsiolkovsky, Russia, last year - VLADIMIR SMIRNOV/POOL SPUTNIK KREMLIN

In response, Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s influential sister indicated that Pyongyang might retaliate, calling them “disgusting defectors” and “human scum”, in a statement to the official Korean central news agency.

“It is natural that there would be something trouble to happen as they did again what they had been urged not to do,” she said.

Since the end of last month, the North has launched hundreds of huge balloons carrying rubbish bags into the South containing waste including rags, used batteries, cigarette butts, and what appeared to be excrement, according to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency.

North Korea also appears to be building a wall at some parts of its border with the South, the BBC reported, citing satellite imagery.

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