South Korea will for the first time sell artillery shells meant for Ukrainian forces through a confidential arms deal between Washington and Seoul, a move that reflects a global scramble for ammunition after months of war with Russia.
US officials familiar with the deal said that the US will purchase nearly 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition that will be delivered to Ukraine, enough to supply Ukraine’s army for at least several weeks of intensive warfare.
Routing the deal through the US allows South Korea to stick to the letter of its public commitment not to send fatal military support to Ukraine while helping Washington DC, South Korea’s paramount ally in keeping North Korea in check.
The Seoul-provided arms will enable the US to supply Ukraine without digging deeper into the American inventory of artillery rounds, which US officials have acknowledged are dwindling quickly.
In August 2022, the stockpile of US 155mm artillery rounds had fallen to levels that concerned the Pentagon as Ukrainian forces engaged in fierce artillery duels with the Russian forces, and US officials say the situation is significantly worse now.
The Defense Ministry in Seoul said in a statement that a South Korean company is in talks with the US to supplement the nation’s stockpile of 155mm artillery shells. The South Korean government’s position of not supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine remains unchanged, according to the statement.