Seoul won’t stand idly by on Russia-N Korea arms deal: S Korean FM

The South Korea government has told Russia that it will not stand idly by if Moscow hands over missile development technology to North Korea, said South Korea’s foreign minister Park Jin. 

In response to a question from lawmaker Ha Tae-keung during a parliament hearing on Friday, as to whether Seoul discussed the issue of Moscow’s military support for Pyongyang with Russia, Park confirmed it did. 

Park’s comments came during a question-and-answer session with Ha over communications between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the South Korean embassy in Moscow after last month’s Russia-North Korea summit.

When Ha asked how Russia briefed South Korea, Park said: “There was a dialogue on various issues to promote friendship and relations between the two countries (North Korea and Russia),” adding, “There were no specifics on military cooperation.”

Ha also repeatedly inquired if he had asked whether Russia had agreed to hand over the missile technology or weapons North Korea was demanding. Park responded: “We have asked Russia to confirm that as well.”

Park also said Seoul is paying close attention to the situation through various information sources and has its own understanding of how it is developing, but avoided specifics on the evidence of North Korea’s arms delivery to Russia.

Park’s remarks came a day after the United States and its allies issued a stern warning against Russia and North Korea as they verified an arms trade deal between the two countries that could bolster Moscow’s aggression towards Ukraine.

“The United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) strongly condemn the provision of military equipment and munitions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the Russian Federation for use against the government and people of Ukraine,” the joint statement said Thursday, referring to the two Koreas’ formal names.

China’s repatriation of North Koreans

Separately, Park also said that he has conveyed his stance over North Korean defectors to Chinese Central Politburo member and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“We conveyed our concerns through diplomatic channels and made it clear that North Korean defectors should not be forcibly repatriated,” Park said in the same hearing. 

While stressing the importance of relations with China, Park noted that the issue of North Korean defectors is an issue related to international human rights.

“We need to make efforts to help North Koreans go where they want to go, including to South Korea, so we are actively explaining South Korea’s position to China and urging China to play a constructive role,” he said.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Chinese authorities had forcibly returned over 500 North Koreans to the reclusive nation. The majority of these North Koreans were civilians and religious leaders attempting to travel to South Korea from China, Radio Free Asia has learned

Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.

Radio Free Asia

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