November 14, 2022
South Korea will for the first time sell artillery shells destined for Ukrainian forces through a confidential arms deal between Seoul and Washington, D.C.—a move that reflects a global scramble for munitions after months of war with Russia, reports The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. officials familiar with the deal said that America plan to purchase 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition that will be delivered to Ukraine—enough to supply Ukraine’s artillery units for at least several weeks of intensive combat.
Indeed, routing the deal through the United States allows South Korea to stick to the letter of its public commitment not to send lethal military support to Ukraine while assisting Washington, Seoul’s paramount ally in deterring North Korea.
The South Korea-provided arms will enable the United States to supply the Ukrainians without digging deeper into the American inventory of artillery rounds, which U.S. officials have acknowledged is dwindling quickly. In August, the stockpile of U.S. 155mm artillery rounds had fallen to levels that concerned the Pentagon, as Ukraine engaged in fierce artillery duels with the Russian forces, and U.S. officials say the situation is considerably worse now.
South Korea Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month and agreed in principle to proceed with the artillery deal.
The Defense Ministry in Seoul said in a statement that a South Korean company is in talks with the America to supplement the U.S. stockpile of 155mm artillery shells. The South Korean government’s position of not supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine remains unchanged, according to the statement.
“The negotiations are happening under the premise that the U.S. will be the final user,” the statement added.
The White House recently said North Korea was providing artillery shells to Russia, setting the unusual stage for armaments from the two Asian countries to be used by opposing forces in Europe. The arms deals highlight the limits of industrial bases in the United States and Russia, which have been stretched to the limit during the war in Ukraine.
Research contact: @WSJ