WhatsApp Channel Join Now
Telegram Group Join Now

Looking for weapons for Ukraine, NATO set its sights on the East

Profile photo: Yan Dong-hwan, director of the South Korean Defense Agency, speaks at a ceremony in Poland welcoming the first South Korean-made tanks and howitzers to the port city of Gdynia. (2022 December 12)
Profile photo: Yan Dong-hwan, director of the South Korean Defense Agency, speaks at a ceremony in Poland welcoming the first South Korean-made tanks and howitzers to the port city of Gdynia. (2022 December 12)

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Until last year, many countries in Western Europe had a long-standing policy of not sending weapons to war zones. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine quickly changed everything.

These countries — notably Germany, Sweden, and Norway — changed course and eventually supplied Ukraine with several rounds of weapons to help it resist the Russians. They believe that this battle will determine the future of Europe.

However, after almost a year of fighting, Europe is now experiencing difficulties in producing enough ammunition to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs and is now looking for other sources of weapons.

Some are seeking help in Northeast Asia. This week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stopped at places like Seoul and Tokyo. During his visit, he called for more military aid to Ukraine. He cited European countries as examples.

“After the brutal invasion of Ukraine, these countries changed their policies,” Stoltenberg said in a speech in Seoul. “If you don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they need weapons. This is the reality. ”

South Korea and Japan have already supplied Ukraine with non-lethal military equipment, including bulletproof vests and helmets. But the two countries have not supplied weapons directly to Ukraine, in part, because they are bound by the law, similar to the restrictions that many European countries have faced.

Neither South Korea nor Japan has shown signs of changing its policy toward Ukraine, but Stoltenberg’s comments seem to suggest that both countries may come under more Western pressure to provide military aid, especially as the war continues slowly and tragically in the form of a war of attrition.

MUST READ: ☞  Biden, I am willing to have a dialogue with Putin on ending the war in Ukraine

South Korea’s cautious approach

So far, South Korea has provided only indirect support for Ukraine’s war effort. The South Korean government does not donate weapons, but it has approved the sale of South Korean-made weapons to countries that provide military aid to Ukraine.

Poland is a major exporter of weapons to Ukraine. Last year, Poland agreed to buy $58.<> billion in South Korean weapons, including tanks, howitzers, and ammunition. South Korean companies have smaller agreements with Estonia and Norway and are in similar talks with the United States and Canada.

Profile photo: A staff member posts a Polish flag on a South Korean-made Panther K2 tank in the Polish port city of Gdynia. (2022 December 12)
Profile photo: A staff member posts a Polish flag on a South Korean-made Panther K2 tank in the Polish port city of Gdynia. (2022 December 12)

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London, said: “These weapons are being used to replace older weapons that these countries are sending to Ukraine, and there is credible information that some of these weapons will enter Ukraine or are already there.”

South Korean officials have yet to announce any policy changes that would allow them to supply weapons directly, though their rhetoric on the issue appears to be softening.

Asked on Tuesday whether Seoul was considering arms exports to Ukraine, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said he shared the NATO secretary-general’s “sentiment on the need for international efforts [to resolve the crisis].”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol mentioned “a possible role in working with the international community to help the Ukrainian people” during his meeting with Stoltenberg, according to a statement released by South Korea’s presidential office, but he did not elaborate.

Reports by some foreign news outlets saw the remarks as a signal that Seoul was open to changing its mind.

MUST READ: ☞  Advanced technology still flows to China "almost unrestricted"? U.S. Department of Commerce promises to tighten loopholes

However, a NATO diplomat in Seoul told the media that he did not expect any major shift in South Korea anytime soon, given South Korea’s close economic ties with Russia and Moscow’s influence over North Korea.

The diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said: “I hope I am wrong.

Even if South Korea does not directly support Ukraine, Russia may not be happy. Last March, Moscow added Seoul to its list of “unfriendly” countries. Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned South Korea that supplying weapons to Ukraine “will ruin our relations.”

Japan’s arms limitation

Japan is less likely to send weapons to Ukraine.

While Japan is gradually loosening its pacifist shackles, its legal restrictions on arms exports appear to be less flexible than those of South Korea.

Despite these obstacles, Japan has become one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters. Japan quickly joined Western sanctions against Russia and provided more than $10 billion in financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and its neighbors, and even sent non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine,—— a step that until recently was unimaginable for Japan.

Jeffrey M. Jeffrey, who teaches at Kanda University of Foreign Studies in Japan. Jeffrey J. Hall said: “We are now seeing a situation in which frontline Ukrainian servicemen wearing Japanese Type 88 helmets use Japanese drones to confront and kill servicemen from Japan’s neighboring countries.” ”

Profile photo: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members participate in a live-fire exercise at the Higashi-Fuji Exercise Ground in Gotemba City in a self-propelled howitzer vehicle. (2021 May 5)
Profile photo: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members participate in a live-fire exercise at the Higashi-Fuji Exercise Ground in Gotemba City in a self-propelled howitzer vehicle. (2021 May 5)

The Russian invasion caused huge shockwaves in Japan. Like Ukraine, Japan faces a neighbor that is eyeing and possesses nuclear weapons. Polls show broad public support for the government’s approach to Ukraine.

MUST READ: ☞  US Defense Secretary China and Russia seek a world in which "Power is Right"

“But handing over the tools that kill Russians directly, such as ammunition, to the Ukrainians is much more controversial,” Hall said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may have other priorities. Perhaps most strikingly, he must find a plan to double defense spending over the next five years without relying too heavily on unpopular tax increases.

Hall added: “This puts Kishida in a political predicament, and he must avoid introducing any further policy changes that could hurt his own approval ratings.”

Even if Japan eventually supplies weapons to Ukraine, its potential influence could be much greater than that of South Korea, whose arms export industry is no bigger.

Continued pressure in Europe and the United States?

As long as the war in Ukraine continues and Western ammunition stocks continue to be depleted, South Korea and Japan are likely to face sustained pressure to supply weapons to Ukraine.

In particular, both countries, which are currently led by conservative governments, are trying to move closer to the West and deepen ties with NATO.

During Stoltenberg’s visit this week, he vowed to strengthen ties with Japan and South Korea. While he expressed reluctance to make concrete policy recommendations, he warned that the security of Europe and Asia is closely linked.

“We must continue to support Ukraine, no matter how long it takes,” he said. “Because if President Putin wins, the message to him and to other authoritarian leaders will be that they can get what they want by using force.”

Leave a Comment

WhatsApp Channel Join Now
Telegram Group Join Now