Then president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol visits Camp Humphreys, South Korea, April 7, 2022.

Then president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol visits Camp Humphreys, South Korea, April 7, 2022. (Seong Yeon Kang/U.S. Army)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Seoul intends to discuss with Washington the leak to social media of purported U.S. military files, some of which reportedly contained details of sensitive discussions between senior South Korean officials, President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said Monday.

“This process would be done based on the trust relationship formed through the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance,” Yoon’s presidential office said in a statement Monday.

The New York Times on Thursday first reported the existence of what appeared to be classified U.S. military documents on social media platforms like Twitter and Discord.

The documents reportedly ranged from information about the ongoing war in Ukraine to the possibility of South Korea providing artillery shells to Kyiv.

The Department of Defense has yet to confirm the documents’ authenticity. A criminal investigation has been launched by the Justice Department, Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Saturday.

Yoon’s office noted the documents were “not the established fact” and said there was still a possibility they were “modified or forged.”

He warned that those who attempt to “shake the alliance by exaggerating or distorting” the incident “will face national resistance.”

According to the Times’ review of the documents, Yi Mun-Hui, South Korea’s former presidential secretary for foreign affairs, had told former national security adviser Kim Sung-han that Seoul “was mired in concerns” that if it complied with the United States’ request for artillery rounds, the end recipient would be Ukraine.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense denied in November it was directly supplying artillery shells to Ukraine and said it was considering exporting them to the U.S. with the understanding that the end user would be Washington.

The documents reportedly indicated that the two officials were concerned about the appearance of sending direct aid to Kyiv and suggested sending artillery shells through Poland since “getting the ammunition to Ukraine quickly was the ultimate goal of the United States.”

Yoon, who has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine but has yet to supply Kyiv with lethal aid, citing Seoul’s relations with Moscow.

While there are a few exceptions, South Korea’s Foreign Trade Act generally requires its exports to be “used for a peaceful purpose” and that they do not “affect international peace, safety maintenance, and national security.”

South Korea is also a signatory to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty of 2014, which introduced regulatory requirements on the import and exports of arms ranging from warships to small arms.

Poland, a Ukraine ally, is one of South Korea’s top purchasers of military equipment. Last year, Warsaw agreed to purchase from Seoul $5.8 million worth of tanks and self-propelled howitzers, and $3 billion worth of FA-50 light combat aircraft.

South Korea last year also signed off on exporting Krab howitzers to Poland with the knowledge that they would be passed to Ukraine, Reuters first reported in March.

The howitzers, which use components manufactured by different countries, were not entirely produced by South Korea, the country’s Ministry of National Defense reportedly said at the time.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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