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South Korea to raise spying concerns with US – media

The Pentagon reportedly snooped on its allies in Seoul to determine their stance on arming Ukraine

The South Korean government will discuss a leak of classified military documents with the US, Reuters reported on Sunday. The documents suggest that Washington spied on Seoul to determine that the South Koreans were hesitant to sell artillery ammunition to the US for fear it would end up in Ukraine.

The leaked documents appeared on social media at some point between late February and early April. According to a review by the New York Times on Sunday, the files relating to South Korea show that when Seoul agreed to sell artillery shells to the US last year, Foreign Affairs Secretary Yi Mun-hui told his boss, National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han, that the government “was mired in concerns that the US would not be the end user if South Korea were to comply with a US request for ammunition.”

Supposedly compiled by the Pentagon, the report was based on signals intelligence, meaning the United States covertly intercepted the communication between Yi and Kim, the newspaper noted.

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A South Korean presidential official told Reuters on Sunday that Seoul will discuss the “issues raised” by the leak with Washington. The official, who declined to be identified, added that the government would study similar cases involving other nations to determine whether to lodge a formal complaint.

South Korean policy forbids the transfer of weapons to active conflict zones. According to the report, however, Kim suggested selling 330,000 artillery rounds to Poland knowing that the US planned on “getting the ammunition to Ukraine quickly.” Yi stressed that Seoul could not violate its own policy, and expressed concern that US President Joe Biden would call his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, and push him to change the policy. 

Biden and Yoon are due to meet in Washington later this month. The South Korean official told Reuters that the country’s policy on arming foreign combatants has not changed.

The documents are the latest in a series of leaked files detailing the US war plans in Ukraine, its surveillance of its allies, and other “sensitive” material related to Ukraine, China, the Middle East, and terrorism. The Pentagon and Justice Department have both announced investigations into the leaks, which senior intelligence officials described as a “nightmare” for the US and its allies. 

The authenticity of the documents remains unverified, and it is currently unclear who published the files, the first batch of which appeared on the Discord chat platform in late February. Following the publication, US officials said they were working to remove the material from the internet, but many of the documents remain accessible on social media. 

April 09, 2023 at 07:35PM

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