South Korea’s sale of ammunition to US comes with a condition

South Korea’s sale of ammunition to US comes with a condition

World News

South Korea said it would sell thousands of artillery shells to the United States, but only on condition that the materiel be used by U.S. forces, not sent to help Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Amid a global scramble for new sources of arms to send to Ukraine, South Korea, among other countries, has been reluctant to send lethal aid to Ukraine for fear of getting drawn into the conflict.

A U.S. official confirmed negotiations between Washington and Seoul for a South Korean defence contractor to sell the cannon-sized ammunition to the Pentagon. The United States has been a major supplier of the weapons Ukraine desperately needs as the nine-month war grinds on.

The deal was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, which said the artillery shells were destined for Ukraine.

But in a statement Friday, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the sale was to help replenish U.S. artillery stockpiles. It said the negotiations were being conducted “on the condition that the United States will be the final user of the shells.”

“There is no change in our government’s stance: We will not supply lethal weapons to Ukraine,” the statement said.

It is possible that the South Korean ammunition would only be used to backfill American-manufactured rounds that, in turn, are sent to Ukraine. Such behind-the-scenes weapons transfers have become increasingly common as U.S. officials and NATO allies try to give cover to states that want to appear neutral during a time of war.

But several U.S. officials reached Friday either were unclear of the terms of the deal or otherwise refused to comment.

In a statement, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the negotiations between South Korea and the United States but pointedly did not mention Ukraine.

Lt. Col. Martin Meiners noted “discussions about potential sales of ammunition to the United States by the South Korean nongovernment industrial defence base.”

He said that all weapons deals between the United States and South Korea were carefully monitored to make sure they did not create vulnerabilities for those forces on the Korean Peninsula on guard against threats from North Korea.

Any deals “will not detract from our defensive posture or readiness to respond against regional threats,” Meiners said.

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