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S.Korea negotiating sale of artillery shells to US after report of weapons to Ukraine

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South Korea’s defense ministry said on Friday it was negotiating to provide the United States - a major supplier of weapons to Ukraine - with ammunition, after The Wall Street Journal reported Seoul had agreed to sell weapons destined for Ukraine.

South Korea’s position of not providing lethal aid to Ukraine is unchanged, the defense ministry said in a statement.

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“In order to make up for the shortage of 155mm ammunition inventories in the US, negotiations are ongoing between the US and Korean companies to export ammunition,” the statement said. “This is under the premise that the US is the end user.”

Citing US officials familiar with the deal, the Journal said the agreement calls for the United States to purchase 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery rounds that would be delivered to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on South Korea to provide weapons, which he said would be “indispensable”.

Last month South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said Seoul has not provided any lethal weapons to Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said such a decision would destroy bilateral relations.

A US ally, South Korea has sought to avoid antagonizing Russia, both for economic reasons and because of the influence that Moscow can exert with North Korea.

US National Security spokesperson John Kirby said last week that Washington had information that North Korea was covertly supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells of its own for use in Ukraine.

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied any arms shipments.

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