The US said it is up to the South Korean government to decide on providing military support to Ukraine amid heightened threat of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“That is a question for the South Korean government to answer,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday (US time), when asked about what kind of military support Washington wants from Seoul as an ally in the face of Russian threats.
Should Seoul want to assist Kyiv in a tangible way, Ukraine would welcome the decision, Kirby added.
“We’ve noted and I’ve said before that many of our other allies in NATO were also finding ways to support Ukraine. But those are sovereign decisions that each nation state has to make for themselves, and I wouldn’t get ahead of the South Korean government on this.”
Kirby’s remarks come amid speculation that Washington could ask Seoul and other allies to join its fight should Russia invade Ukraine to start a full-fledged war. It arrives as the US has warned that Russia could mount a major assault on Ukraine at any time, having massed more than 100,000 soldiers and advanced weapons to Russia’s border with Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden said Washington would respond “swiftly and decisively” together with its allies and partners to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine, in his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Sunday.
At last weekend’s trilateral meeting between South Korea, the US and Japan, the Ukraine issue was high on the agenda. The three foreign ministers in their joint statement committed to work closely together to deter further Russian escalation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the press after the meeting that the response from the US and its allies and partners will be swift, united and severe if Moscow choses the path of aggression and further invades Ukraine.
The South Korean government has not received any official request from Washington to provide support to Ukraine in case of contingencies, according to officials here.
“We are monitoring Ukraine’s tense situation and related movements. Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence must be respected, and we hope Ukraine’s peace and stability to be restored through dialogue and diplomatic efforts,” Ahn Eun-ju, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson said in a press briefing in response to a question about what role Seoul could play as Washington’s ally in the case of an aggravated situation in Ukraine. She added that South Korea is “closely communicating” with its partner countries in regards to Ukraine.
The Defense Ministry here also said it will continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine and closely cooperate with related agencies and countries.
Amid rising tensions in the region, the South Korean government has been focusing on getting its citizens out of the country.
The Foreign Ministry said there were 197 South Korean nationals left in Ukraine as of Tuesday, compared to 600 nationals last month. About 20 more are expected to leave the country, bringing the figure down to 170 by Wednesday.
The Korean government has issued a travel ban on its nationals to all regions of Ukraine effective Sunday. It also urged its citizens there to evacuate immediately.