SEOUL – The US Department of Defence has asked its forces stationed in South Korea to provide equipment to help Ukraine in the war against Russia, the US military said on Thursday, adding the move has “zero impact” on its operations in the Korean peninsula.
US Forces Korea (USFK), which has some 28,500 troops in South Korea, said the move is part of US efforts to help Ukraine with its inventories.
“This has zero impact on our operations and our ability to execute on our ironclad commitment to the defence of our ally, the Republic of Korea,” the USFK’s spokesman, Colonel Isaac Taylor, said in a statement.
USFK declined to provide further details, including what types of equipment and how much has been requested or already transferred.
South Korea’s policy is not to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Seoul has sought to avoid antagonising Russia, both for economic reasons and because of the influence that Moscow can exert with North Korea.
A US official said in November Washington was in talks with South Korea to buy artillery shells to send to Ukraine, though Seoul insisted that the US must be the end-user.
The New York Times reported earlier this week the US was diverting munitions in Israel and South Korea to Ukraine for use in the war against Russia.
The US is also pressing Germany to allow for the transfer of German-made tanks to Ukraine.
The two countries remain at loggerheads over the issue. Germany will allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the US agrees to send its own tanks, a German government source told Reuters.
But US officials publicly and privately insist that Washington has no plans to send tanks to Ukraine for now, arguing that they would be too difficult for Kyiv to maintain and would require a huge logistical effort to simply run.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “will be pressing the Germans on this” when he meets Germany’s new Defence Minister Boris Pistorius on Thursday, one senior US defence official said.
He said supplying Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks made the most sense as a number of countries already had them and were willing to transfer them quickly.
A second US official said President Joe Biden’s administration was set to approve a new aid package to Ukraine, worth more than US$2 billion (S$2.65 billion).
The package, which could be announced as early as Friday during a meeting of defence leaders at an airbase in Germany, would likely include Stryker armoured vehicles for Kyiv, but not M1 Abrams tanks.
The United States is aiming to break the dynamic of grinding warfare and near-frozen frontlines in Ukraine with newly announced military capabilities that it hopes will breathe fresh momentum into Kyiv’s battle against Russian forces, a senior Pentagon official said on Wednesday.
But Mr Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, said the Pentagon still wasn’t prepared to meet Kyiv’s calls for gas-guzzling M1 Abrams main battle tanks. REUTERS