“Arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK [North Korea] are actively advancing,” White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said.
What makes them think that?
Staunch allies Russia and North Korea aren’t exactly keeping their close relationship under wraps – Moscow’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu received the full red-carpet treatment in North Korea last month, the country’s first known foreign visitors since its pandemic border closure.
“Since that visit, President [Vladimir] Putin and the leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, have exchanged letters pledging to increase their bilateral cooperation,” Kirby told reporters.
He added that a key focus of the talks was artillery ammunition for Moscow’s forces.
Kirby noted that despite its denials, North Korea supplied infantry rockets and missiles to Russia last year for use by the privately controlled Wagner military group.
“We remain concerned that... the DPRK continues to consider providing military support to Russia’s military forces in Ukraine,” he said.
Speaking after Shoigu’s North Korea trip last month, Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, told AFP. “Russia is expected to ask for more artillery support from North Korea to be used in the Ukraine war, and Pyongyang is also expected to ask for Russia’s cooperation on reconnaissance satellites or nuclear submarines.”
What’s being done about it?
At the United Nations, the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan said in a joint statement that any such deal would violate Security Council resolutions forbidding arms deals with North Korea – resolutions that Moscow itself had endorsed.
They said that following Shoigu’s visit to Pyongyang, another group of Russian officials travelled to North Korea for follow-up talks on arms purchases.
“Russia is negotiating potential deals for significant quantities and multiple types of munitions from the DPRK to be used against Ukraine,” they said.
“These potential deals could also include the provision of raw materials that would assist Russia’s defense industrial base,” they said.
“Any such arm deals would be a serious violation of resolutions the Security Council adopted unanimously after the DPRK’s past nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches,” they said.
Will Russia and North Korea listen to them?
It’s very unlikely – North Korea relishes in doing the opposite of what Western nations tell it to do and Russia is desperate for weapons.
North Korea is a staunch supporter of Russia and has heavily criticized the US and blamed it for the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion.
In comments earlier this year, Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said the US was “crossing a red line” with its decision send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
She added: “I express serious concern over the US escalating the war situation by providing Ukraine with military hardware for ground offensive, and strongly denounce it.
“The US is the arch-criminal which poses serious threat and challenge to the strategic security of Russia and pushed the regional situation to the present grave phase.”
The US has accused North Korea of supplying Russia with weapons, artillery shells in particular, funneling them through the Middle East and Africa.
What has Russia said?
There’s been no reaction to Kirby’s comments so far but after Shoigu’s visit to North Korea last month, Russia’s defense ministry said: “This visit will contribute to strengthening Russian-North Korean military ties and will be an important step in the development of cooperation between the two countries.”
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