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US, South Korea reach secret deal to send cluster munitions to Ukraine: report

May 25, 2023

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The United States has reportedly reached a “confidential agreement” with South Korea to coordinate the transfer of hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds to Ukraine. According to the Wall Street Journal, South Korea will deliver the rounds to the U.S., who will in turn bring them to Ukraine, a move aimed at supplying Kyiv for its anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces.

This comes more than six months after the U.S. had initially asked for artillery support from South Korea, who has emerged as the fastest-growing arms exporter in the world.

Seoul had previously ruled out sending lethal aid to Ukraine, citing business ties with Russia and Moscow’s influence over rival North Korea. However, the Journal reports a breakthrough was made on the issue after South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol visited Washington last month for a summit with President Joe Biden.

While this development could potentially allow the U.S. to delay action on a request by Ukraine for cluster bombs, which is weaponry the White House has been reluctant to provide due to international condemnation of those explosives, South Korea has disputed some details of the reported agreement.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that while his nation had been in talks with the Pentagon about ammunition exports, there were inaccuracies in the Wall Street Journal’s story, adding that the government’s position on providing aid to Ukraine remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, U.S. and South Korean forces are coming together for a series of large live-fire drills near the border with North Korea that will simulate repelling an attack from Pyongyang. The drills, which began on May 25, will continue through mid-June. They involve more than 200,000 troops and over 600 weapons systems such as fighter jets, attack helicopters, drones, tanks and artillery from both nations. 

This latest round of exercises marks the first time the U.S. and South Korea have held them together since 2017, and comes just over a month after North Korea announced it successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile

On May 19, Pyongyang controlled state media called the drills “a typical North Korea-targeted war rehearsal.”

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KARAH RUCKER: THE UNITED STATES HAS REPORTEDLY REACHED A QUOTE CONFIDENTIAL AGREEMENT WITH SOUTH KOREA TO COORDINATE THE TRANSFER OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ARTILLERY ROUNDS TO UKRAINE. 

 

ACCORDING TO THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, SOUTH KOREA WILL DELIVER THE ROUNDS TO THE U.S., WHO WILL IN TURN BRING THEM TO UKRAINE, A MOVE AIMED AT SUPPLYING KYIV FOR ITS ANTICIPATED COUNTEROFFENSIVE AGAINST RUSSIAN FORCES.

 

THIS COMES MORE THAN SIX MONTHS AFTER THE U.S. HAD INITIALLY ASKED FOR ARTILLERY SUPPORT FROM SOUTH KOREA, WHO HAS EMERGED AS THE FASTEST-GROWING ARMS EXPORTER IN THE WORLD.

 

SEOUL HAD PREVIOUSLY RULED OUT SENDING LETHAL AID TO UKRAINE, CITING BUSINESS TIES WITH RUSSIA AND MOSCOW’S INFLUENCE OVER RIVAL NORTH KOREA. HOWEVER, THE JOURNAL REPORTS A BREAKTHROUGH WAS MADE ON THE ISSUE AFTER SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT YOON SUK YEOL VISITED WASHINGTON LAST MONTH FOR A SUMMIT WITH PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN.

 

WHILE THIS DEVELOPMENT COULD POTENTIALLY ALLOW THE U.S. TO DELAY ACTION ON A REQUEST BY UKRAINE FOR CLUSTER BOMBS, WEAPONRY THE WHITE HOUSE HAS BEEN RELUCTANT TO PROVIDE DUE TO INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF THOSE EXPLOSIVES, SOUTH KOREA HAS DISPUTED SOME DETAILS OF THE REPORTED AGREEMENT.

 

A SPOKESMAN FOR SOUTH KOREA’S DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID THAT WHILE HIS NATION HAD BEEN IN TALKS WITH THE PENTAGON ABOUT AMMUNITION EXPORTS, THERE WERE “INACCURACIES” IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’S STORY, ADDING THAT THE GOVERNMENT’S POSITION ON PROVIDING AID TO UKRAINE REMAINS UNCHANGED.

 

MEANWHILE, U.S. AND SOUTH KOREAN FORCES ARE COMING TOGETHER FOR A SERIES OF LARGE LIVE-FIRE DRILLS NEAR THE BORDER WITH NORTH KOREA THAT WILL SIMULATE REPELLING AN ATTACK FROM PYONGYANG. 

THE DRILLS, WHICH BEGAN ON THURSDAY AND WILL CONTINUE THROUGH MID-JUNE, INVOLVED MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND TROOPS AND OVER SIX HUNDRED WEAPONS SYSTEMS SUCH AS FIGHTER JETS, ATTACK HELICOPTERS, DRONES, TANKS AND ARTILLERY FROM BOTH NATIONS. 

 

THIS LATEST ROUND OF EXERCISES MARKS THE FIRST TIME THE U.S. AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE HELD THEM TOGETHER SINCE 2017, AND COMES JUST OVER A MONTH AFTER NORTH KOREA ANNOUNCED IT SUCCESSFULLY TESTED A NEW TYPE OF INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILE. 

 

LAST FRIDAY, PYONGYANG CONTROLLED STATE MEDIA CALLED THE DRILLS QUOTE “A TYPICAL NORTH KOREA-TARGETED WAR REHEARSAL.”

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