South Korea, EU agree to boost security ties amid Ukraine, North Korea tension

South Korea, EU agree to boost security ties amid Ukraine, North Korea tension

South Korea and the European Union have agreed to intensify their security cooperation amid tensions over Russia's invasion in Ukraine and North Korean threats.

The South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol met with the European Commission's Ursula von der Leyen, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, in Seoul. During this summit, they also committed to working together on climate changes, health, and supply chains.

Yoon said at a press conference that South Korea and the EU were important partners who shared universal values such as freedom, human rights and law.

Yoon has pushed for stronger security ties between Europe and the U.S. to tackle global challenges. These include the conflict in Ukraine, and tensions over China's attitude towards Taiwan. He wants to work together with other countries in order to stop North Korea from pursuing its nuclear goals. He attended the NATO summit in June for the first time, as a South Korean president.

In a joint declaration, Yoon, the EU leaders and other participants in the talks that marked the 60th anniversary bilateral relations condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it a grave breach of international law. The leaders also condemned North Korea's efforts to build up its nuclear arsenal, and Pyongyang’s threats that it could use nuclear weapons against South Korea.

The statement stated that "Russia must cease its aggression and withdraw its military forces immediately, unconditionally and completely from the entire territory Ukraine".

Seoul, a major producer of artillery, has not supplied lethal weapons, citing its ties to Russia. However, Yoon indicated a possible change in his stance in an interview last month with Reuters.

Von der Leyen expressed gratitude to Yoon at the press conference for South Korea's humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine.

Yoon and EU leaders called for the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea as well as peace across the Taiwan Strait. They said they opposed any unilateral attempts to alter the Indo-Pacific status quo.

South Korea and the EU are also enhancing their cooperation in economic security. This includes early warning systems that detect and respond to potential supply chain disruptions, for example, in semiconductor chips.

South Korea hosts 28,000 U.S. soldiers and is a staunch ally of the United States. South Korea has developed an important economic relationship with China, South Korea’s largest trading partner.

Yoon has a difficult task in balancing these two relationships while also battling a belligerent North Korea that is increasing its arsenal of missiles and nuclear weapons.

The statement warned that the triple crisis of climate changes, biodiversity loss, and pollution pose an "existential danger."

The two sides have also agreed to increase their health cooperation. They will work together in order to identify and counter threats to health, as well as assist other countries with prevention and response.