South Korea's president said the international community "will unite more tightly" to cope with deepening military co-operation between Russia and North Korea, as he pushes to raise the issue with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
Worries about Russian-North Korean ties have flared since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un travelled to Russia last week for a summit with President Vladimir Putin and to tour a slew of high-profile military and technology sites.
Foreign experts speculate Kim could refill Russia's ammunition inventory drained in its 18-month war with Ukraine in return for economic aid and technologies to modernise his weapons systems targeting South Korea and the United States.
"Military co-operation between North Korea and Russia is illegal and unjust as it contravenes UN Security Council resolutions and various other international sanctions," South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said in written responses to questions from The Associated Press before his departure to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
"The international community will unite more tightly in response to such a move."
Yoon will speak about his assessment of the Russian-North Korean moves in his address to the annual UN gathering on Wednesday, his office in South Korea said, adding it was discussing countermeasures with the US, Japan and other partners.
While Russian-North Korean co-operation is feared to fuel Russia's war efforts in Ukraine, it has also stoked security jitters in South Korea, where many think a Russian transfer of sophisticated weapons technologies would help North Korea acquire a functioning spy satellite, a nuclear-powered submarine and more powerful missiles.
Some experts still say North Korea would end up receiving food and cash in return for supplying ammunition and shells because Russia closely guards its high-tech weapons technologies.
North Korea's advancing nuclear arsenal has been a major source of tensions in the region, with the North openly threatening to use nuclear weapons in potential conflicts with its rivals and conducting a barrage of missile tests since last year.
In response, Yoon and US President Joe Biden in April agreed to expand joint military exercises, increase the temporary deployments of U.S. nuclear assets and launch a bilateral nuclear consultative group.
"Our two countries (South Korea and the U.S.) reaffirmed that any nuclear attack by North Korea will be met with a swift, overwhelming and decisive response that will bring about the end of the regime," Yoon said.
Yoon will also use his UN speech to raise the issue of gaps in three areas - development, climate responses and digital transformation - and present how South Korea will contribute to resolving them.
Australian Associated Press