SEOUL, South Korea — The leaders of South Korea and Germany on Sunday pledged more cooperation in building stable industrial supply chains and addressing the challenges posed by nuclear-armed North Korea as they met in Seoul after flying in from the Group of Seven meetings in Japan.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, pointed to the similarities between the two major manufacturing nations that are dependent on foreign trade and said a stronger supply chain partnership would help them cope with “intensifying global economic instability and geopolitical conflicts.”
He said the countries in particular will work to advance trade relations in high-tech industries and clean energy, including semiconductors and hydrogen projects, and pursue further opportunities in defense cooperation.
Yoon said they also discussed the growing threat posed by North Korea, which has test-fired around 100 missiles since the start of 2022 while accelerating its push to expand its nuclear arsenal. He said Scholz agreed to help maintain a “consistent message to the international community that North Korea has nothing not gain from its illegal provocations,” and coordinate on diplomatic efforts to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.
“Germany, which was reunified 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 (in broader efforts) to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization.”
Before his meeting with Yoon, Scholz visited the southern side of the heavily armed border splitting the two Koreas and called for the North to halt its testing activity. He repeated a similar message during the news conference, expressing solidarity with Seoul and calling for a more effective international response against North Korea's missile development that threatens South Korea and Japan.
Yoon and Scholz were among the leaders who participated in the G7 talks in Hiroshima, which were highlighted by an in-person appearance of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the discussions centered around countering Russia’s prolonged invasion of his country.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have also risen since the war in Ukraine, which North Korea has used as a distraction to ramp up its weapons testing. Moscow and Beijing have blocked U.S.-led efforts at the U.N. Security Council to strengthen punishment of Pyongyang over its recent tests, underscoring a divide among permanent members deepened by the war.
At the G7, Yoon focused on raising international awareness about 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 activity.
Yoon also met with Zelenskyy on the margins of the summit and promised South Korean demining equipment and ambulances as Seoul expands its non-lethal aid to Kyiv.
“There have been serious civilian casualties and damage (in Ukraine) because of the large number of land mines planted by the Russian military while they withdrew from (around) Kyiv. (Ukraine) has requested demining equipment and ambulances, and we are reviewing those requests first and plan on providing those supplies quickly,” Yoon said at the news conference.
Without specifying, Yoon said Zelenskyy during their meeting also presented a list of other non-lethal supplies he wants from South Korea and that Seoul was “carefully reviewing” the request.
South Korea, a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped military backed by the United States, has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine while joining U.S.-led economic sanctions against Moscow. Seoul has not directly provided arms to Ukraine, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in conflict.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Zelenskyy during his meeting with Yoon reiterated a previous request for South Korea to provide weapons.
This story corrects part of Yoon's quote.