A group of Russian officials recently trip to North Korea, indicating a potential arms deal between the two countries, a US National Security Council (NSC) official has said.
John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, said on Wednesday that the trip may be followed by high-level discussions that could lead to the provision of North Korean weapons to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, Yonhap news agency reported.
“We have new information, which we are able to share today, that arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing,” the NSC spokesperson told a virtual press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Following these negotiations, high-level discussions may continue in the coming months. Now, among these potential deals, Russia would receive significant quantities and multiple types of munitions from the DPRK, which the Russian military plans to use in Ukraine,” he added.
The reported trip to North Korea by Russian officials follows a high-profile visit by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to Pyongyang in July, which then prompted suspicions that the two close neighbours may be seeking to advance their military cooperation.
North Korea is said to have provided millions of infantry artillery shells and rockets to Russia late last year. North Korea has strongly and repeatedly dismissed the accusation.
“The DPRK has said publicly that they will not sell (weapons) to Russia. But we remain concerned that the DPRK continues to consider providing military support to Russia’s military forces in Ukraine,” Kirby told the press briefing.
“Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu recently travelled to the DPRK to try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia,” he added. “Our information further indicates that following Shoigu’s visit another group of Russian officials travelled to Pyongyang to follow up discussions about potential arms deals between the DPRK and Russia.”
The NSC official noted that North Korea may also seek to provide raw materials for Russia’s defence industrial base after Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanged letters calling for increased defence cooperation between their countries.
“These potential deals could also include the provision of raw materials that would assist Russia’s defence industrial base,” said Kirby, noting that “export controls and sanctions are very much targeted at trying to eliminate Russia’s ability to have those kinds of raw materials and basic ingredients”.
“We will continue to identify, expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK or frankly any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine,” he added.
Kirby underscored that Russia’s outreach to North Korea for weapons reflects the difficulties it currently faces.
“Why else would Mr. Putin had to be reaching out to … rogue regimes? He is going to Iran, He’s going to North Korea to try to get artillery shells and basic materials so that he can continue to shore up his defence industrial base,” he told the press briefing.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit any transfer of weapons to or from the North.
“(An) arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would directly violate a number of UN Security Council resolutions. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia, and we are taking action directly to expose and sanction individuals and entities working to facilitate arms deals between Russia and the DPRK,” she told a daily press briefing.