President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a meeting of the North Atlantic Council during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 12, 2023. Reuters-Yonhap

President Yoon Suk Yeol warned Russia against deepening military cooperation with North Korea, emphasizing that Moscow should adopt a “sensible” approach in choosing between the two Koreas based on its own interests, according to Reuters, Monday.

He also reiterated the stance that South Korea’s decision on whether to provide arms to Ukraine hinges on Russia’s actions and decisions.

Yoon’s remarks came ahead of his planned visit to Washington to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, where he is expected to talk about the heightened threats posed by Russia and North Korea.

Tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement in June, which involves providing mutual defense assistance in case either side faces an armed attack. Pyongyang renewed its support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, saying, “We will always be on the side of the Russian army in the war of justice.”

“North Korea is clearly a menace to the international society,” Yoon said in an interview with Reuters. “I hope that Russia will sensibly decide which side — the South or the North — is more important and necessary for its own interests.”

He added, “The future of ROK-Russia relations depends entirely on Russia’s actions.” ROK is an acronym of South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

Since Kim and Putin’s previous summit in September last year, North Korea has allegedly been supplying Russia with ammunition and weapons. These supplies are purportedly used in Russia’s conflict against Ukraine, exchanged for technological assistance for North Korea’s space program. Both countries have denied engaging in such deals.

In response to the enhanced military ties between Russia and North Korea, South Korea has said it would reconsider its earlier stance not to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. Yoon reiterated this position, saying that depends on “the 사이트 level and substance of military cooperation between Russia and North Korea.” He said the military cooperation could include areas such as arms deals, transfers of military technology and assistance with strategic materials.

Yoon also expressed regret that Russia, once a supporter of U.N. sanctions against North Korea as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is now seen as posing a threat to security on the Korean Peninsula by violating these sanctions. He warned that there would be a clearly “negative” impact on South Korea’s relations with Russia if these violations continue.

The South Korean leader will visit Washington from Wednesday to Thursday to take part in the NATO summit, becoming the first leader of the South to participate in the high-stakes meeting for the third year in a row.

The presidential office said Yoon will hold bilateral talks with more than five NATO member nations, including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Norway, and attend a banquet hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

On Thursday, he will meet with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, the other Indo-Pacific Partners 4 (IP4) countries engaged with NATO. He will also participate in a summit involving NATO members and IP4 countries and deliver a speech at the NATO Public Forum.

During the meetings, Yoon is expected to emphasize to NATO and IP4 members that Moscow’s ties with Pyongyang could present more than just threats to Seoul.

“Military cooperation between Russia and North Korea poses a distinct threat and grave challenge to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Europe,” Yoon told Reuters.

Yoon is expected to discuss ways to bolster security ties with the U.S., Japan, and other NATO allies in response to the increasing military cooperation between Russia and North Korea.

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