South Korea says information contained in an alleged leak of highly classified United States documents that appear to be based on internal discussions among top South Korean security officials was “untrue” and “altered”.
Official correspondence has circulated online in recent days that offer a month-old snapshot of the war in Ukraine, sparking a diplomatic row between the US and some allies.
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One of the documents, which does not contain a date, gave details of alleged internal discussions among top aides to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and suggested Washington applied pressure on Seoul to help supply artillery shells to the US to be sent to Ukraine.
Such a move would violate South Korea’s longstanding policy of not exporting weapons to countries at war.
The US would have spied on South Korea, one of its most important allies, if the information contained in the document is correct.
Yoon’s office said in a statement suspicions Seoul was monitored are “utterly false” and any attempts to shake its alliance with the US is an act “compromising national interest”.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held phone talks with his South Korean counterpart on Tuesday, in which both sides agreed much of the document had been fabricated, but no indication was given as to which parts were untrue.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the meeting was requested by Austin, who promised to communicate closely with South Korea on the issue.
The revelation comes days before a diplomatic visit to the US by South Korea’s Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo, who said the latest controversy will not affect the countries’ alliance.
“The US is the country with the world’s best intelligence capabilities and since [Yoon’s] inauguration we have shared intelligence in almost every sector,” Kim told reporters.
Yoon is also scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington on April 26.
Some lawmakers of South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party expressed “strong regret” on Monday over the alleged surveillance, calling it a clear violation of national sovereignty and a major security failure of the Yoon administration.
Several additional unverified leaked documents suggest the US was spying on other friendly nations, including Israel.