South Korea says it could supply arms to Ukraine after Russia signs ‘absurd’ deal with North Korea

South Korea has strongly criticised North Korea and Russia’s new military pact, and said it will reconsider supplying Ukraine with weapons in response.

The comments from South Korea’s presidential office came a day after North Korea and Russia reached a mutual agreement on defence assistance, including in the event of war, on Wednesday. The deal was signed after Vladimir Putin met his “comrade” Kim Jong-un on a visit to Pyongyang.

North Korea’s state media published the text of the deal on Thursday, which says each country would provide the other with immediate military assistance if it were to be invaded.

Condemning the deal, South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said the agreement was a threat to Seoul’s security and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. It will have serious negative consequences for South Korea’s relations with Russia, the statement added.

Mr Yoon’s national security adviser, Chang Ho-jin, said South Korea would now reconsider the issue of supporting Ukraine in fighting off Russian invasion. Seoul has so far provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid but refused to send arms, citing a long-standing policy of not doing so for countries actively engaged in conflict.

Mr Yoon’s office slammed the agreement between Mr Putin and Mr Kim and said: "It’s absurd that two parties with a history of launching wars of invasion – the Korean War and the war in Ukraine – are now vowing mutual military cooperation on the premise of a preemptive attack by the international community that will never happen.

"In particular, Russia’s decision to support North Korea and cause harm to our security, despite its status as a permanent member of the Security Council that has endorsed the sanctions resolution against North Korea, will inevitably have a negative impact on (South Korea-Russia) relations," the statement said.

Experts are assessing the text of the North Korea-Russia deal to establish exactly what both sides have committed to. Article 4 of the agreement says: “In case any one of the two sides is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK and the Russian Federation.”

This has been carefully worded so as not to imply automatic military intervention, said Ankit Panda, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But “the big picture here is that both sides are willing to put down on paper, and show the world just how widely they intend to expand the scope of their cooperation,” he said.

“For all intents and purposes, this is a pact of military alliance,” said Artyom Lukin, of Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University. “This will be Moscow’s first defence alliance outside the post-Soviet space.”

The agreement is a big win for Russia, which gets a legal framework for North Korea’s support in the Ukraine war, said Cho Han-bum, of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

But its wording leaves room for Moscow to avoid helping North Korea in border clashes or other future skirmishes if it so chooses, he said.