|Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, left, shakes hands with Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, during the third plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Saturday (local time). Yonhap|
By Lee Hyo-jin
The Ministry of National Defense denied claims that it discussed sending ammunition to Ukraine with the European Union (EU), amid lingering speculation that Korea is proceeding with indirect military assistance to Kyiv.
Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup met with Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, Saturday, on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
In a tweet after the meeting, Borrell said, "Good meeting with Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup at #SLD23. Shared alarm at continued DPRK provocations and discussed Ukraine's needs for ammunition."
However, the defense ministry dismissed claims that Lee and Borrell discussed ammunition support to Kyiv.
"The EU mentioned the need for various weapons systems and other support in order to improve Ukraine's situation against Russia, and there were unilateral remarks (from the EU) about the importance of ammunition," the ministry said in a text message sent to reporters, Sunday.
The ministry did not directly mention Borrell's tweet, but stressed that the provision of ammunition was not a subject of discussions and thus further talks were not held on the matter.
The meeting between Korea's defense minister and the EU's top diplomat took place amid heated debate about whether Korea is proceeding with indirect military aid to the war-torn Eastern European state. According to a Wall Street Journal report published on May 24, hundreds and thousands of Korean artillery rounds that will be exported to the U.S. may eventually be shipped to Kyiv.
Regarding the report, the defense ministry said "some of the content is inaccurate," but did not confirm further details of the arms deal with Washington.
Wary of relations with Russia deteriorating, Korea has so far maintained its position of providing only humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine. However, President Yoon Suk Yeol's interview with Reuters in April, during which he hinted at possible arms support to Kyiv depending on the situation of the war, signaled a major shift from the current principle.