S Korean leader warns Russia, N Korea against military cooperation

Seoul and allies won’t just ‘stand idly by,’ Yoon tells the UN General Assembly.
By Lee Jeong-Ho and Alex Willemyns
Seoul/United Nations
S Korean leader warns Russia, N Korea against military cooperation South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.
Credit: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a fresh warning to Russia and North Korea in an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, declaring that Seoul and its allies would respond collectively should the two authoritarian states pursue military cooperation.

“If North Korea acquires the information and technology necessary to enhance its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities in exchange for supporting Russia with conventional weapons, the deal will be a direct provocation, threatening the peace and security of not only Ukraine, but also the Republic of Korea,” Yoon said, referring to South Korea’s formal name.  

“The Republic of Korea, its allies and other friendly nations would not just stand idly by,” he said.

Yoon’s comments, his harshest to date, came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in Russia’s Far East last week, where they vowed to boost their comprehensive cooperation, spanning from the economy to military.

During their meeting, Putin offered to aid Kim in perfecting his “satellite” technology. Transferring relevant technology may pose a threat to the international community as rocket technologies can be used for both launching satellites and missiles. 

For that reason, the U.N. bans North Korea from launching a ballistic rocket, even if it claims to be a satellite launch. 


In his speech, Yoon specifically targeted Russia for taking irresponsible actions in undermining global security efforts.

“It’s paradoxical that a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which is meant to safeguard global peace, invades other sovereign states and obtains the arms and ammunition required for its war from a regime that directly defies U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Yoon said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Oblast of the Far East Region, Russia, Sept. 13, 2023 in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. Credit: KCNA via Reuters

Underlining the urgency for unified and principled international action, Yoon called other states to form a coalition under shared values to counteract “illegal provocations.”

“Passing on sustainable freedom, peace, and prosperity is the historic responsibility of all of us here today,” Yoon said, adding that South Korea would implement a “comprehensive assistance program” in aiding Ukraine, including its security and reconstruction.

Yoon, who is a conservative, has been seeking to align Seoul’s foreign policy stance with the United States to counter global challenges including Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, China’s assertiveness in the West Pacific, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

To that end, Yoon focused on improving ties with the United States by actively taking part in the Biden administration’s supply chain initiative that requires less of China, while strengthening its military and economic cooperation with Washington and Tokyo.

Edited by Malcolm Foster


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