SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Washington wants to buy South Korean artillery shells to send to Ukraine, a U.S. official said on Friday, even as Seoul insisted the United States must be the end user of the ammunition and that its policy against lethal aid for Ukraine is unchanged.
The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, confirmed that Washington wanted to send South Korean 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine.
The official said funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) could be used to purchase the munitions, but it was unclear whether they would be shipped through US territory.
South Korea’s defense ministry, however, said its stance on not providing lethal aid to Ukraine is unchanged and negotiations are being conducted “on the basis that the United States is the user.” final”.
“In order to compensate for the shortage of 155mm ammunition stocks in the United States, negotiations are underway between American and Korean companies to export ammunition,” the ministry said in a statement.
The US official warned news of the talks could threaten the deal.
Allied with the United States, South Korea has sought to avoid antagonizing Russia, both for economic reasons and because of the influence Moscow can wield with North Korea.
Citing US officials familiar with the deal, The Wall Street Journal said the deal would involve 100,000 155mm artillery shells to be delivered to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on South Korea to provide weapons which he says are “indispensable”.
Last month, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said Seoul had not supplied any lethal weapons to Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said such a move would destroy bilateral ties.
US National Security spokesman John Kirby said last week that Washington had information that North Korea was secretly supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells for use. in Ukraine.
Moscow and Pyongyang have denied any delivery of arms.
Reporting by Josh Smith and Mike Stone; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Gerry Doyle
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