North Korea Calls NATO Chief’s Seoul Visit a ‘Prelude’ to War

FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the test-firing of what it
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File

North Korean state media on Monday denounced NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to South Korea as a “prelude to confrontation and war.” During his visit, Stoltenberg urged South Korea to “step up to the specific issue of military support” for Ukraine.

“The trip of the NATO secretary general to South Korea and Japan is a prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a ‘new Cold War’ to the Asia-Pacific region,” North Korean political researcher Kim Tong-myong charged in an article published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an outlet controlled by the North Korean regime.

Kim claimed NATO has turned Ukraine into a “theater of proxy war” against Russia and claimed Stoltenberg is attempting the same strategy against North Korea by building an Asian version of NATO.

On Saturday, dictator Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong denounced the United States for promising to send 31 advanced main battle tanks to Ukraine. Kim said the offer crossed a “red line” and promised North Korea would “stand in the same trench” as the Russians against the United States.

“I express serious concern over the U.S. escalating the war situation by providing Ukraine with military hardware for ground offensive,” Kim said in a statement published by KCNA.

On Sunday, a senior North Korean official denied U.S. allegations that Pyongyang is supplying weapons to Russia’s infamous Wagner Group, a brutal mercenary outfit fighting on behalf of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

Kwon Jong-gun, director of North Korea’s Department of U.S. Affairs, warned that the Biden administration is courting a “really undesirable result” by spreading a “groundless rumor of arms dealing between the DPRK and Russia.”

“It is an illegal act to call into question the legitimate right to national defense of a sovereign state. Moreover, trying to tarnish the image of the DPRK by fabricating a non-existent thing is a grave provocation that can never be allowed and that cannot but trigger its reaction,” he railed.

DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North Korean regime’s preferred name for itself.

North Korea and Syria are the only two countries to officially accept Putin’s unilateral creation of two Russian-dominated “independent republics” in eastern Ukraine. Before detailing its allegations about Pyongyang giving weapons to the Wagner Group, the Biden administration accused North Korea of secretly shipping artillery shells to Russia for use in Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov was on the same page as Pyongyang, warning the U.S. not to proceed with planned nuclear exercises with South Korea.

“Particularly unpleasant consequences would follow should U.S. nuclear weapons return to the South of the Korean Peninsula. This possibility has begun to be openly discussed in the Republic of Korea. Such a development would inevitably have to be taken into account in Russia’s defense planning. And, I think, China’s too,” Lavrov growled.

During his visit to Seoul on Monday, NATO chief Stoltenberg asked South Korea to lift its restrictions on exporting weapons so it could do more to help the Ukrainians, as Germany, Norway, and Sweden have done.

A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to announce Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023 that his government will approve supplying German-made battle tanks to Ukraine. The long-awaited decision comes after U.S. officials said Tuesday that a preliminary agreement had been struck for the United States to send M1 Abrams tanks to help Kyiv push back Russian forces entrenched in the east almost a year since the start of the war. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

“After the brutal invasion of Ukraine, these countries changed their policy because they realized that when you are facing a brutal invasion where a big power – Russia – invades another one in a blatant way as we have seen in Ukraine, if we believe in freedom, if we believe in democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they need weapons,” Stoltenberg said.

“When the full-fledged invasion happened last year, many countries changed their policy because they realized that the only way to stand up for democracy, to help Ukraine prevail, and to create the conditions for a lasting peace was to deliver military support,” he said.

“If President Putin wins, the message to him and other authoritarian leaders will be that they can get what they want with the use of force. This would make the world more dangerous and us more vulnerable,” he warned.

In December, South Korea made its first delivery of ten Black Panther K2 tanks to Poland, filling an urgent order placed by Polish President Andrzej Duda “in the face of Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine.”

Poland has expressed interest in replacing Soviet-era hardware sold to the Ukrainians with state-of-the-art South Korean weapons, including the K2 tanks, 24 Thunder K9 howitzers delivered alongside them, and soon the Chunmoo K239 rocket launchers, which are scheduled for delivery in 2023.

“There are not many companies around the world that can make a massive number of weapons within a designated time frame. South Korea is one of very few with stable production capacity coming from its readiness of preparing the war for the past 70 years, not to mention the cost competitiveness,” Asan Institute for Policy Studies researcher Yang Wook told the Korea Herald in October.

Other analysts told the Korea Herald that South Korea can deliver K2 tanks at about half the cost of the fabled German Leopard 2, and it can produce several times as many of them in a year. These would be ideal features for sales to Ukraine, or perhaps for more replenishment sales to Poland, if Duda chooses to pass early deliveries of South Korean equipment along to the Ukrainians instead of keeping them.

In November, the United States purchased 100,000 155mm artillery shells from South Korea for delivery to Ukraine. 

The third-party purchase was necessary because South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, seeking to preserve good relations with Moscow, made a public commitment to sell only “humanitarian and peaceful assistance to Ukraine, in solidarity with the international community, but never lethal weapons or any such things.”

On Monday, a South Korean soldier accidentally fired a machine gun near the North Korean border, prompting hasty calls to Pyongyang to prevent the situation from escalating.

According to South Korean military officials, the incident occurred during a training exercise in the southern border province of Gangwon. All four of the accidentally-fired live rounds landed on the South Korean side of the border, causing no injuries or damage.

“No particular signs have been detected from the North’s side, and an investigation is under way over the exact circumstances of the incident,” a South Korean official said.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.