South Korean officials on Tuesday said a “significant number” of leaked documents from the Pentagon were likely altered, casting doubt on records that indicated the U.S. was spying on Seoul.
The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said in a statement the defense chiefs of both countries discussed the leaked documents and “agreed on the fact that a significant number of the relevant documents were forged.”
South Korea’s officials added that security was “thick” in the presidential office, which was recently moved from the traditional Blue House to the Ministry of Defense.
“The Yongsan Presidential Office is a military facility, and a much stronger anti-eavesdropping system than the previous Blue House,” the statement reads. “The suspicion of eavesdropping in the Yongsan Presidential Office is a false suspicion.”
The dozens of leaked U.S. and NATO documents now circulating online, a major blow to U.S. intelligence, includes information about South Korea’s internal discussions regarding the sale of artillery shells to Washington.
South Korea had agreed to sell the munitions to the U.S. military to replenish stocks but privately Seoul was expressing concerns about the artillery shells being shipped to Ukraine.
The report was based on signals intelligence, which suggests the U.S. was spying on a major ally.
The Democratic Party in South Korea, an opposition group to Yoon’s more conservative political party, on Monday blasted the revelations in the documents as an “illegal wiretapping” and raised concerns about communications security in the president’s office.
“We deeply regret that the United States’ top intelligence agency has been carrying out illegal espionage activities against our allies, and we strongly urge a clear truth-check and a never-before-seen incident like this,” the political party said during a press conference statement.
“In addition, we need a firm response from our government. Clearly illegal eavesdropping and wiretapping of a sovereign state cannot exist,” the group added.
The Pentagon is reviewing the leaked documents and has referred the breach to the Justice Department, which has opened its own formal investigation.
Additional documents revealed the U.S. government may have been spying on other crucial allies, including Israel and Ukraine.
Most of the documents are dated in March or February and appear to have begun circulating on chat forum sites, such as 4Chan and Discord.
At least one document that contained inflated Ukrainian casualty rates and reduced Russian casualties appears to have been altered, based on an investigation from Bellingcat.