Recently declassified U.S. intelligence indicates that North Korea is secretly supplying artillery shells and ammunition to Russia. U.S. officials believe that the quiet shipments of ammunition from North Korea confirm that Russia is still struggling to replace ammunition even for its conventional artillery systems.
What’s more, the intelligence suggests that North Korea is purposely trying to hide the shipments by making them appear as though they are being sent to countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
In a statement to CNN, the outlet that first reported on the declassified intelligence, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that North Korea’s claim in September that the country had no intention to sell weapons to Russia was false.
Kirby said that U.S. intelligence “indicates that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is covertly supplying Russia’s war in Ukraine with a significant number of artillery shells, while obfuscating the real destination of the arms shipments by trying to make it appear as though they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.”
What Kind Of Ammo, and Why Now?
On top of heavy artillery shells, North Korea can send other kinds of ammunition and weaponry that Rnnnnnn soldiers are already familiar with. Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corporation and a 19FortyFive contributor said that North Korea is also likely to be sending artillery rounds for small arms like machine guns and AK-47s.
“It’s not millions of artillery shells and rockets — that’s more than the likely consumption. It could be millions of small arms rounds,” Bennett said.
North Korea is able to provide the ammunition Russia needs as the country has a large stock of Soviet-era weapons and ammunition. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, North Korea could have roughly 20,000 artillery pieces, including multiple rocket launchers, in service right now. It stands to reason that the country has a substantial supply of ammunition appropriate for a large number of weapons, which now appears to have been made available to Russia.
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The details of the exchange have not been revealed by the Kremlin, though could well be part of an effort by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to establish closer ties with Russia at a time when much of the rest of the world is seeking to limit ties with the country. North Korea’s assistance now could see Russia assisting the isolationist communist country in different ways in the future, either by resupplying ammunition and more advanced weapons once the conflict in Ukraine comes to an end, or even helping North Korea with its widespread food shortages.
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.
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