By Soo-hyang Choi
SEOUL (Reuters) – Canada has asked South Korea to supply it with artillery rounds, Seoul said on Monday, apparently to “backfill” supplies that Ottawa has sent to Ukraine, upping pressure on South Korea to provide – at least indirectly – lethal aid in the war.
Canada has provided Ukraine with M777 towed howitzers, which fire 155-millimetre shells. Last week Defence Minister Anita Anand announced Canada would be sending an additional 20,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition, sourced from the United States.
A spokesman for South Korea’s ministry of defence confirmed that Ottawa had made the request, but would not elaborate further saying “no official proceedings are under way related to the request.”
South Korean broadcaster SBS, citing an unnamed high-ranking South Korean defence ministry official, said that the deal could involve up to 100,000 shells from South Korea’s reserves, likely sold below market value.
“We are actively pursuing a plan to provide 100,000 rounds to Canada,” the official told SBS.
Global Affairs Canada, which manages diplomatic and consular relations, and Canada’s Department of National Defence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korea is a major manufacturer of 155mm ammunition, with its K9 self-propelled howitzer dominating the international market. The K9 is used by several European countries, including Finland, Norway and Estonia, but South Korea has said it has no plans to provide lethal aid to Ukraine.
South Korea has provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and has shipped non-lethal items including bulletproof helmets and medical kits.
The administration of former President Moon Jae-in turned down requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for armoured vehicles, and anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and anti-ship weapons.
New South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10, has signalled interest in more closely aligning with Washington, raising speculation he would move to greenlight at least some indirect lethal aid to Ukraine.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi. Additional reporting by Amran Abocar in Ottawa. Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)