NATO’s chief urges South Korea to step up military support for Ukraine

  • The head of NATO seeks to establish closer ties with the Asian allies
  • calls on South Korea to provide more military aid to Ukraine
  • China also challenges ‘our values’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday called on South Korea to increase military support for Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy of not providing weapons to countries in conflict after the Russian invasion.

Stoltenberg was speaking in Seoul, the first stop on a tour that will also include Japan to strengthen ties with Western allies in Asia amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and growing competition with China.

Speaking at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul, he thanked South Korea for its non-lethal aid to Ukraine but urged it to do more, adding that the ammunition was “urgently needed.”

“I urge the Republic of Korea to continue on the specific issue of military support,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you have to make a decision, but I will say that several NATO allies who had a policy of never exporting arms to countries in conflict have now changed that policy,” he said. based on Germany, Sweden and Norway.

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“If we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they (Ukrainians) need weapons, that’s the reality,” said former Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, South Korea signed major deals to supply NATO member Poland with hundreds of tanks, planes and other weaponry. But President Yoon Suk-yeol said South Korea’s law banning the supply of arms to countries in conflict made it difficult to send arms to Ukraine.

Russia calls its invasion, which began on February 24, a “special operation” aimed at countering threats to its security.

Stoltenberg also met with Yoon and Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, who reiterated calls for closer ties with NATO based on shared values, but stopped short of publicly calling for more military aid to Ukraine.


In meetings with senior South Korean officials, Stoltenberg said events in Europe and North America are interconnected with events in other regions and that the alliance wants to help manage global threats by strengthening partnerships in Asia.

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The NATO chief said it was “very important” that Russia does not win this war, not only for the sake of the Ukrainians, but also to avoid sending the wrong message to authoritarian leaders, including Beijing, that they can get what they want by force.

While China is not a NATO adversary, it has become “much higher” on NATO’s agenda, he said, citing Beijing’s growing military capabilities and coercive behavior in the region.

“We think we should work with China on issues like arms control, climate change and other issues,” he said. “But at the same time, we are very clear that China is challenging our values, our interests and our security.”

Asked about Stoltenberg’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Monday that China is a partner, not a challenge, and that it does not threaten any nation’s interests or security.

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“We also hope that NATO will abandon its Cold War mentality and the concept of bloc confrontation and do more for the security and stability of Europe and the world,” Mao said at a regular press conference.

In a statement released by state media on Monday, North Korea called Stoltenberg’s visit “a prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a ‘new cold war'” to the Asia-Pacific region.

Last year, South Korea opened its first diplomatic mission to NATO, pledging to deepen cooperation in non-proliferation, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, disaster response and other security areas.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Monday for talks with South Korean leaders.

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Additional reporting by Hanna Song and Eduardo Baptista; Edited by Kim Coghill, Gerry Doyle, Gareth Jones and Sharon Singleton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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