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Is North Korea Selling Russia Weapons to Fight in Ukraine?

North Korea
Image: Creative Commons.

North Korea Slams U. S. Over Weapons Transfer to Russia Claims – In a report from state media on Thursday, a North Korean defense official denied U. S. intelligence reports that the country had sent weapons to Russia.

The statement instructed U. S. officials to cease making “reckless” remarks about the North Korean military and went as far as telling the United States to “keep its mouth shut. “

“We take this opportunity to make clear one thing,” the statement reads. “We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them. It is not sure from where the rumor originated which the U.S. is spreading, but it is aimed at tarnishing the DPRK’s image.”

The North Korean official also claimed that the United States was circulating the rumor to pursue its “military aim” in Ukraine.

What U. S. Intelligence Says

According to U. S. intelligence obtained by the New York Times earlier this month, Russia is buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea amid a shortage and manufacturing shortfalls at home.

The declassified intelligence was confirmed by U. S. officials, although more precise information about the size and scope of the deal could not be confirmed.

Why It Matters

If North Korea did in fact supply weapons to Russia, it would violate United Nations resolutions that block the country from either impeding or exporting weapons.

However, given that North Korea is already among the most sanctioned nations on the planet, with Russia now following suit, it’s unclear what repercussions the countries could expect to face if the U. S. intelligence turns out to be true.

North Korea previously offered support to Russia in the form of troop deployment. In August, a Russian military pundit claimed on state television that as many as 100,000 “volunteer” North Korean troops were “prepared to come and take part in the conflict.

The pundit, Igor Korotchenko, also touted the “wealth of experience” of North Korean soldiers using counter-battery warfare.

While Putin appears to be in the process of tightening diplomatic and economic ties with Eastern states symptomatic with, or less concerned by, his way in Ukraine, he doesn’t appear to have taken North Korea up on the offer. It would be difficult for Putin to hide the use of foreign troops in this war, but perhaps less difficult to hide the use of North Korean weapons. Even with evidence of their use, the Kremlin may also simply deny it.

With his life and leadership position on the line, Putin knows he needs to balance optics with efficacy. If his military can benefit from North Korean weapons, then perhaps he settling to use them. That being said, any sign of weakness – and relying on an isolationist state like North Korea certainly is one — could hurt his reputation domestically.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. mcswell

    September 26, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    Odd, I would have thought the North Koreans would be proud if Russia came to them to buy arms.

  2. Roger Bacon

    September 27, 2022 at 10:47 am

    If they send 100,000 men to fight then they should send 100,000 women to South Korea because there’s going to be a shortage of young men for them to marry in North Korea.

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