Seoul Dismisses Report of US Spying on Allies, Says Ties Strong

(Bloomberg) — South Korea played down any possibility of a rift with the US over a report that American intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on allies’ discussions about Ukraine, reiterating that its alliance with Washington remains strong.

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“We will review past precedents and cases from other countries to come up with countermeasures,” and will hold consultations with the US on the issue, South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement Sunday. It said the allegation made in the report about internal discussions on Ukraine is “not a confirmed matter.”

South Korea issued the statement in response to a New York Times report claiming the US had been eavesdropping on allies, including South Korea, with regard to their plans to support Ukraine with weaponry. The leaked Pentagon document on which the report was based was released on social media, and revealed that the US was also spying on Ukraine’s top military and political leaders.

In February, it was confirmed that a South Korean defense company was in talks with the US Department of Defense about ammunition exports. While the South Korean government has a policy of not providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, there are interpretations that suggest it is indirectly supporting Ukraine through the US.

Two Korean defense companies, Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Defense, have signed contracts worth a total of $5.76 billion with Poland to export K-2 battle tanks and K-9 self-propelled howitzers, Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said last August. The Asian country is also set to export fighter jets to Poland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed he was aware of South Korea’s decision to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition. During the Valdai Discussion Club held in Moscow last October, Putin issued a stark warning to Seoul concerning the potential deterioration of Russia-South Korea relations if the latter provides weapons to Ukraine.

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