Russia buys weapons from North Korea, US intelligence says


As the war in Ukraine nears the 200-day mark, Russia is turning to the global pariah state of North Korea to buy Soviet-era weapons, according to US officials and a recently declassified intelligence report .

Moscow is set to buy “millions of rockets and artillery shells” from Pyongyang, a US official told the Washington Post on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity about the declassified intelligence, which has first summer reported by the New York Times.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s decision indicates that “the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, partly due to export controls and sanctions,” the official said. “We anticipate that Russia may try to purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future.”

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the intelligence finding that Russia had approached North Korea for ammunition, saying it demonstrated the challenges Russia faces in maintaining its ammunition supply. “We feel things are not going well on that front,” Brig. General Pat Ryder.

Russia and Ukraine are struggling to stock up on artillery shells for Soviet-era weapons, with North Korea one of the few places that still have supplies.

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The Russian state news agency Tas has already reported that relations between Moscow and Pyongyang are “entering a golden age”. Citing a statement this year from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, he said the two nations were reaching “new strategic heights” and that North Korea “stands in solidarity with the just actions of the Russian leadership aimed at eliminating political threats and military and blackmail by hostile forces”. powers.”

In July, North Korea was among a handful of countries, including Syria, to officially recognize the Russian-backed Ukrainian breakaway “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states – a decision denounced by Kyiv.

At the time, North Korean state media reported that his Minister of Foreign Affairs had sent letters to the two regions of eastern Ukraine expressing a “willingness to develop state-to-state relations with these countries in the idea of ​​independence, peace and ‘friendship”. The Russian Embassy in North Korea welcomed this decision and Pyongyang’s support for what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, in 2019. Putin too visited Pyongyang in 2000, meeting with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.

A report released by North Korea this week accused the United States of being “determined” to contain Russia and China. He accused the United States of working with its ally South Korea to achieve its strategy of “hegemony” in the region “by force of arms”, if necessary.

Moscow’s ammunition purchase “reveals Russia’s military situation” and an “increased convenience relationship” between North Korea and Russia, said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group think tank, adding that he illustrated how “isolated” Russia was. to outlier states for “low-tech” weapons.

The relationship with Russia “is good for North Korea. Pyongyang is looking to diversify away from China. They recognize their overreliance,” he added.

“The Chinese have been completely absent when it comes to the Russians,” he said, noting that Beijing’s lack of military support for the war in Ukraine has caused the Kremlin to turn to Iran and Korea. North for equipment.

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North Korea has a huge inventory of weapons and ammunition and has made it a point to show off new systems at military parades, said Bruce Klingner, senior Northeast Asia researcher at the Heritage Foundation. , a conservative think tank in Washington.

It is unclear whether North Korea would supply these new weapons or draw from older stockpiles. Weapons under consideration may include unguided rockets that are not technologically sophisticated but can still cause enormous damage, Klingner said.

“It really shows [Russia is] running out of ammunition, or their production capacity cannot keep pace with the war in Ukraine,” he said, pointing to the eroding effect of the sanctions.

Ukrainian forces could look closely at the potential Russian purchase and seek to expedite their transition from older Soviet weapons and ammunition to newer weapons supplied and manufactured by the United States and its allies.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that its Soviet-era weapons had “exhausted their potential” and that the country would “move to NATO standards.”

In an apparent blow to the Kremlin, he tweeted“Those who are unable to transform to NATO standards, switch to North Korean standards: be it weapons, politics, living standards.”

Biden pledges $3 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine

In August, President Biden unveiled a $2.98 billion military package, on Ukraine’s independence day, in a sign of Washington’s long-term will support in the fight against the Russian invasion. The package includes more artillery, drones, radar and air defenses and commits six additional surface-to-air missile systems and hundreds of thousands of rounds for howitzers and mortars used on the battlefield. Counter drone weapons known as Vampires will also be provided for the first time.

“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement.

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Rumors of North Korean arms sales to Russia have been circulating for some time, with speculation that Pyongyang could receive Russian oil and gas in return, North Korean expert Ramon Pacheco Pardo told The Post. .

“I don’t think it’s unusual for them to cooperate with each other,” he said, “but it’s unusual for Russia to have to resort to buying weapons from North Korea. . This means that their supplies are really limited. He also suggested it could be because Moscow has struggled to get the weapons it needs elsewhere.

“It seems to me to be an option of last resort, like the recent Iranian drone report,” said Pardo, professor of international relations at King’s College London, referring to China’s apparent arms purchase. Russia to Iran.

North Korea was among a handful of nations to diplomatically support Russia in its invasion, with little fear of repercussions because “it is already very heavily sanctioned”, he added.

The North Korea revelations come weeks after Russian cargo planes collected at least two types of Iranian-made combat drones, according to US officials, highlighting the deepening ties between Moscow and Tehran. The initial delivery of the Mohajer-6 and Shahed series drones to Moscow in August would be the first installment of a planned transfer of hundreds of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of various types, Biden administration officials said.

“In the face of combat losses, Russia is likely to struggle to maintain its drone stocks, exacerbated by component shortages resulting from international sanctions,” the UK Ministry of Defense said. said Tuesday in a daily war intelligence update. “The limited availability of reconnaissance drones is likely degrading commanders’ tactical situational awareness and increasingly hampering Russian operations,” he added.

Amar Nadhir and Shane Harris contributed to this report.

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