S. Korea, U.S. defense chiefs vow to sternly deal with arms transfers between N. Korea, Russia

The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States spoke by phone Wednesday and vowed to sternly deal with North Korea's arms transfers to Russia in coordination with the international community, Seoul's defense ministry said. Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, held the phone talks amid rising concerns over North Korea's supplying munitions and missiles to Russia to replenish its weapons stockpile for use in Ukraine. "They shared concerns the illegal arms transfers between Russia and North Korea pose a serious threat not only to the Korean Peninsula but also to global peace and stability, and pledged to firmly respond in coordination with the international community," Seoul's defense ministry said in a release. Shin told local media Monday that North Korea has shipped about 6,700 containers carrying millions of munitions to Russia since July 2023 to support its war against Ukraine in exchange for food and other necessities. The U.S. and its partners have denounced the alleged arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban countries from trading weapons or other military equipment with North Korea. During the conversation, Shin and Austin condemned the North's recent spate of missile tests and pledged to maintain a robust combined defense posture to deter Pyongyang's provocations. "The two sides strongly denounced North Korea's reckless actions, including multiple missile launches and various provocations at sea," it said. North Korea has ratcheted up tensions with weapons tests this year, including five rounds of cruise missile tests from sea and land, as well as artillery firings into waters near the western inter-Korean sea border in January. According to the Pentagon, the two sides discussed "shared defense and security priorities" on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region and vowed to enhance trilateral security cooperation with Japan. "The Secretary reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. extended deterrence commitment to the defense of the ROK," read a separate statement issued by the Pentagon. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea. "They also commended progress on U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral security cooperation and emphasized the importance of expanding broader regional cooperation by the United States and the ROK with other partners," it added. Source: Yonhap News Agency