(LEAD) White House refuses to comment on whether S. Korea should send artillery shells to Ukraine

The White House declined Wednesday to comment on whether South Korea should provide 155-mm artillery shells to help Ukraine defend against Russian attacks, saying it is a military decision for Seoul to speak to. During a press briefing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made the remarks, expressing America's gratitude for the Asian ally's continued support for the war-torn country. "I am going to let South Korea speak to their own military decisions and their bilateral relations," she told a press briefing. "We are grateful for their support to Ukraine obviously as they continue to defend against Russia's aggression. ... But I am not going to speak to their own military decision that is something for them to speak to," she added. In response, Seoul's defense ministry said its policy stance against the provision of weapons to Ukraine remains unchanged. "Related to the support for Ukraine, our existing stance has not changed in particular," defense ministry vice spokesperson Lee Kyung-ho said during a reg ular press briefing Thursday. On Monday, Yuri Kim, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, expressed hopes for South Korea to provide more defense material support to Ukraine, stressing the importance of air defense assistance. Seoul has maintained a stance to provide humanitarian and non-lethal defense assistance to Ukraine, such as protective suits, demining equipment and other military supplies. But in December, The Washington Post reported that South Korea's "indirect" provision of 155-mm shells to Ukraine in 2023 has made it a larger supplier of ammunition for the war-ravaged country than all European countries combined. Source: Yonhap News Agency