WASHINGTON — Poland’s prime minister said he believed that only the direct intervention of President Biden would lead to an agreement for South Korea to make its artillery shells available to Ukraine to use in the fight against Russia.
Leaked intelligence documents posted on social media in March and brought to wider public attention in recent days said Poland could have a role in the transfer of artillery shells from South Korea to Ukraine. But the reports indicated that South Korean officials were reluctant to provide the ammunition, worried that doing so could violate their country’s rules against providing lethal aid to nations at war.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, who is in Washington this week for meetings with U.S. officials and the International Monetary Fund, said tapping into South Korean artillery stocks was crucial to getting more badly needed ammunition to Ukraine.
Russia’s military, Mr. Morawiecki said in an interview on Tuesday with The New York Times, has far more artillery shells and is firing far more rounds on the battlefield each month than the Ukrainian Army. He said South Korea has a huge supply of artillery shells and could help.
But forging a deal, he added, would require more direct involvement from Mr. Biden to assure South Korea that the United States would offer support in the face of any aggressive response from China or Russia.
“We spoke to South Korea about this, the weapon delivery and delivery of ammunition,” Mr. Morawiecki said. “But I don’t think that this is going to be possible without the intervention of the United States. South Korea is fearful of Russian reaction and Chinese reaction.”
Officials with the South Korean Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Morawiecki said Poland would never transfer the weaponry without negotiating an arrangement with South Korea. Poland has purchased many weapons systems from South Korea, but he said that buying shells from Seoul specifically to send to Ukraine would require U.S. involvement.
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