South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged Saturday to "expand the scale" of his country's humanitarian and non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, in his first visit to the war-torn country.

The world's ninth-largest arms exporter, South Korea has a long-standing policy to not supply lethal weapons to active conflict zones.

Seoul "will expand the scale of supplies from last year, when we provided materials such as helmets and bullet-proof vests", Yoon said.

Yoon added that humanitarian aid would be increased to $150 million in 2023, from $100 million last year.

He made the announcement at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Thank you for the meaningful talks. Thank you for your strong support," Zelensky said at the joint briefing.


"We talked about everything that is important for people to lead a normal and safe life," Zelensky told journalists.

He thanked Yoon "for your new initiatives to provide financial, technical and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine" without going into detail.

The Ukrainian leader also praised the transfer of vehicles and demining equipment that "help us save lives."

Before the meeting, Yoon visited Bucha, the site of an alleged massacre by Russia troops.

"Ukraine now reminds me of South Korea of the past," Yoon said, hailing the international assistance that allowed his country to "pull off a miraculous victory" over the North and eventually rise to become one of the world's major economies.

Seoul, which remains technically at war with nuclear-armed North Korea, produces significant volumes of NATO-compatible weaponry, including its tanks, howitzers and sought-after shell ammunition.

It has sold tanks and howitzers to Poland -- a key ally for Kyiv as it battles invading Russian forces.

Seoul has previously hinted it could reconsider its policy of not supplying lethal aid, Yoon saying earlier this year that a large-scale Russian attack on civilians could tip the balance.


But in May, South Korea dismissed a US media report that its artillery rounds were headed to Ukraine, saying its position on not providing lethal aid to Kyiv was unchanged.

Experts warn that South Korea is in a tricky position because of its economic ties with Russia -- its 15th-largest trading partner as of 2022 -- as well as Moscow's influence over North Korea.

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