President Yoon Suk Yeol said he believes China's interests do not align with those of North Korea or Russia, calling on Beijing to play its role in promoting freedom, peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.
Yoon made those remarks in an interview with the Telegraph published on Sunday (local time), before his state visit to the United Kingdom upon the invitation of King Charles III. Yoon arrived in London on Monday.
"China, Russia and North Korea each face different situations and external environments, thus I believe their subsequent interests also differ," Yoon said. "China's alignment with North Korea and Russia will not serve Beijing's national interests."
Yoon continued that Pyongyang and Moscow blatantly violated not only United Nations Security Council resolutions but also other international rules, and China will consider that pursuing a three-way cooperation with them will not be helpful for its international reputation and status.
"China plays an important role in improving the freedom, peace and prosperity of the Northeast Asian region and the international community, so the Korean government has been consistently pursuing healthy and mature Seoul-Beijing relations based on mutual respect and reciprocity," Yoon said.
Yoon's comments came amid growing international concerns that North Korea and Russia are deepening their military cooperation, with the North providing artillery shells and other conventional weapons to Russia in return for Moscow's technological support for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
"North Korea's weapons support to Russia will protract the war in Ukraine, creating more casualties," Yoon said. "And if Russia provides military tech support to North Korea, this will be a threat to the national security of South Korea and regional peace."
Citing the North Korea-Russia military ties, the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the increasing tensions in the South China Sea, Yoon noted that the world is facing "a polycrisis" and he seeks closer security ties with the U.K., which is an important Indo-Pacific partner for South Korea.
Yoon's state visit came as the two countries celebrate the 140th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.
During his stay in London, Yoon is expected to engage in talks to improve the free trade agreement between the two countries, so that it can reinvigorate their trade and investments against the backdrop that the U.K. is turning its eyes toward Asian economies after its exit from the European Union.
On Tuesday, Yoon will deliver an address at the U.K. Parliament, as well as having a luncheon and dinner with the king.
Yoon will have a summit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to discuss the two countries' partnerships in a variety of sectors including cybersecurity, defense, bio and clean energy. The outcomes of their talks will be released in a South Korea-U.K. Accord.
Following his stay in the U.K., Yoon will move to Paris to make last-minute efforts to promote Busan's bid to host the World Expo 2030. There, Yoon will engage in luncheons and dinners with the members of the Bureau International des Expositions, who will vote on the host city on Nov. 28.