Washington plans to buy 100,000 South Korean-made artillery shells for use in the Ukraine war, a United States official has said, though South Korea has insisted its policy against providing lethal aid to Ukraine remained unchanged and it expects the end user of the ammunition to be US forces.
Citing US officials familiar with the deal, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US and South Korea were nearing an agreement to buy 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery shells that would be delivered to Ukraine.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed with Reuters news agency on Friday that Washington wanted to send the South Korean artillery shells to Ukraine.
The official said that Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds could be used to buy the ammunition, but that it was unclear whether the shells would be shipped through US territory.
The official warned that news of the talks being made public could threaten the deal.
Responding to reports on the ammunition deal, South Korea’s defence ministry said on Friday that its position on not providing lethal aid to Ukraine remained unchanged, and its “confidential” negotiations on the sale of the artillery shells were being conducted “under the premise that the US is the end user”.
“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 ministry said in a statement.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday that the country’s defence minister Lee Jong-sup and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had “agreed ‘in principle’ to proceed with the artillery deal” during talks earlier this month.
The ministry added that the South Korean government had not altered its commitment to refrain from supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons, Yonhap said