The Kremlin may supply North Korea with new Russian weaponry should South Korea supply military equipment to Ukraine, former Russian president and current Russian Security Council deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev warned on Wednesday.
In response to a Wednesday Reuters interview with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in which he indicated that Seoul could provide lethal aid to Ukraine for its war against Russia, Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel that "There are new ones willing to help our enemies."
"Until recently, the South Koreans ardently assured that the possibility of supplying lethal weapons to Kyiv was completely ruled out," said Medvedev. "I wonder what the inhabitants of this country will say when they see the latest samples of Russian weapons with their closest neighbors -- our partners from the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)?"
Medvedev said that such an outcome would be a "quid pro quo."
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry acknowledged on Wednesday night that without naming Medvedev but played down the statements by implying that the Russian military arsenal had vastly degraded due to its invasion of Ukraine, and would soon only be able to send obsolete World War II era tanks.
"Russian authorities threatened South Korea that if it supplied lethal weapons to Ukraine, Russia would respond by supplying arms to the DPRK," the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter. "Today, trains are transporting Korean War-era T-54 tanks from Russia to Ukraine, and tomorrow they will transport T-34 tanks to [North Korean capital of] Pyongyang."
Kremlin Spokesman Dimitry Peskov also responded to Yoon's statements, warning that lethal aid would mean that South Korea would be more involved in the war.
"Unfortunately, Seoul has taken a rather unfriendly position in this whole story," said Peskov. "The start of arms deliveries will obliquely mean a certain stage of involvement in this conflict."
Paying it forward after Korean War
Yoon had told Reuters that his government had been reviewing how it could help defend and rebuild Ukraine in the same manner that his state had received international support in the 1950 Korean War.
"If there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support," Yoon told Reuters.
The shift in position comes not only before Yoon's visit to the US, but the leak of Pentagon intelligence documents that revealed South Korea's reticence to provide weapons to Ukraine under US pressure.
Leaked intercepts showed that South Korean senior presidential advisers were concerned about providing artillery shells directly to Ukraine, the BBC reported. The advisors allegedly suggested that South Korea, a major producer of artillery shells, could send them to Poland instead to maintain appearances of neutrality. The BBC noted that in 2022 Seoul had agreed to sell shells to the US on the condition that they not be sent to Ukraine.
On Wednesday the US announced a new security package to Ukraine that included 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds. The US has supplied over 1,500,000 155mm rounds, 7,000 precision guided 155mm artillery rounds, 155mm Remote Anti-Armor Mine rounds, 50,000 152 mm rounds, 40,000 130mm rounds, 40,000 122 mm rounds, and 450,000 105mm rounds since the war began.