SEOUL – South Korea claimed on Tuesday that material in a supposedly leaked US confidential paper, which appeared to be based on internal deliberations among top South Korean security officials, was “untrue” and “altered.”
Several documents have lately been uploaded on social media, providing a fragmentary, month-old glimpse of the Ukrainian battle, creating a diplomatic spat between the US and several allies.
One of the documents included details of internal South Korean conversations concerning US pressure on Seoul to help deliver weapons to Ukraine, raising the possibility that the US was spying on South Korea, one of its most significant allies, and eliciting outrage from the Asian country’s politicians.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said in a statement that allegations that his office in Seoul was being watched are “utterly false,” and that any attempt to undermine the country’s relationship with the US is an act “compromising national interest.”
According to Yoon’s office, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his South Korean counterpart on Tuesday, and the two sides concurred that much of the dossier on South Korea was falsified.
It did not specify which part of the document was false.
According to South Korea’s defense ministry, during the phone discussion, which was requested by Austin, the Pentagon chief clarified recent media reports on the leak and committed to carefully cooperate with South Korea on the problem.
The news comes just weeks before Yoon’s meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in Washington on April 26.
On Monday, some Democratic Party MPs in South Korea expressed “strong regret” over the alleged spying, calling it an obvious infringement of national sovereignty and a grave security failure by the Yoon administration.
As he left for Washington ahead of Yoon’s visit, South Korea’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, claimed the recent scandal will have no impact on South Korea’s partnership with the US.
“The United States has the best intelligence capabilities in the world, and since (Yoon’s) inauguration, we have shared intelligence in almost every sector,” Kim told reporters.
The paper, which does not appear to be dated, stated that South Korea had agreed to sell artillery shells to assist the US in replenishing its stocks, with the “end user” being the US military. Top South Korean officials, though, were concerned that the US would redirect them to Ukraine.
South Korea has stated that its law prohibits it from selling weapons to countries in conflict, implying that it cannot deliver munitions to Ukraine.
Reuters has not independently verified the validity of the documents. According to US officials, some estimates of fighting casualties from Ukraine appear to have been changed to understate Russian losses.