South Korean, German leaders agree to cooperate with supply chains, North Korea

Seoul, South Korea — The leaders of South Korea and Germany on Sunday pledged further cooperation in building stable industrial supply chains and dealing with challenges posed by nuclear-armed North Korea when they met in Seoul after flying in from a Group of Seven meeting in Japan.

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pointed to similarities between the two major manufacturing nations, which depend on foreign trade, and said a stronger supply chain partnership would help cope with the “strengthening global economic situation.” instability and geopolitical conflicts.”

He said the countries will work to develop trade ties, particularly in high-tech industries and clean energy, including semiconductor and hydrogen projects, and explore further opportunities in defense cooperation.

Yoon said they also discussed the growing threat posed by North Korea, which has fired about 100 missiles since the start of 2022 as it accelerated the expansion of its nuclear arsenal. Scholz agreed to help maintain a “consistent message to the international community that North Korea has nothing to gain from its illegal provocations” and coordinate diplomatic efforts to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

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“Germany, which was unified 33 years ago, is a country that understands and empathizes with the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula,” Yoon said. “We will continue to work closely together (as part of a broader effort) to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.”

Before meeting with Yoon, Scholz visited the southern side of the heavily armed border that divides the two Koreas and called on the North to halt its testing activities. He repeated a similar message at the press conference, expressing solidarity with Seoul and calling for a more effective international response to North Korea’s missile development that threatens South Korea and Japan.

Yoon and Scholz were among the leaders who attended the G7 talks in Hiroshima, which were highlighted by a personal appearance by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi as the talks focused on countering Russia’s lingering invasion of his country.

Tensions have also risen on the Korean Peninsula since the war in Ukraine, which North Korea used as a distraction to increase its weapons tests. Moscow and Beijing have blocked a US-led effort at the UN Security Council to strengthen punishment for Pyongyang over recent tests, underscoring divisions among permanent members that have been deepened by the war.

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At the G7, Yoon focused on raising international awareness of the growing North Korean nuclear threat. The leaders issued a statement on nuclear disarmament that included condemnation of the North’s illicit weapons development and testing activities.

Yoon also met with Zelenskyi on the sidelines of the summit and promised South Korean mine clearance equipment and ambulances, while Seoul provides non-lethal aid to Kiev.

“Severe civilian casualties and damage have occurred (in Ukraine) because the Russian army has laid a large number of landmines while withdrawing from Kiev (around). (Ukraine) has requested demining equipment and ambulances, and we are first reviewing those requests and plan to quickly provide those supplies,” Yoon told a news conference.

Without elaborating, Yoon said Zelenskyy had also presented a list of other non-lethal supplies he wanted from South Korea during their meeting, and that Seoul would “carefully review” the request.

South Korea, a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped U.S.-backed military, has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine while joining U.S.-led economic sanctions against Moscow. Seoul has not directly provided weapons to Ukraine, citing its long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries active in the conflict.

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It was not immediately clear whether Zelensky repeated his earlier request to South Korea to provide weapons during his meeting with Yoon.


This story corrects part of Yoon’s quote.