North Korea and Russia are reportedly taking steps to secure a joint arms deal. The U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have condemned the move, which would prop up the weapon arsenals of both rogue countries. The White House is particularly concerned with how increased cooperation between North Korea and Russia could fuel the Kremlin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
As detailed by National Security Spokesperson John Kirby, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un exchanged letters pledging to ramp up their cooperation. “We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms production,” Kirby noted.
Earlier in August, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with North Korean officials in person during a trip to Pyongyang. The U.S. believes that Shoigu first proposed increasing the sale of munitions to Moscow to aid its war efforts in Ukraine during this time.
Why Weapons Exchange Could Be Beneficial to Russia’s Invasion Efforts
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have experienced critical ammo shortages throughout the last year and a half, making Pyongyang’s potential contribution to Moscow significant. Now that Kyiv’s counteroffensive is in full swing, both countries will be seeking support from outside parties to fuel their respective war efforts.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have provided billions of dollars worth of military aid, including ammunition, to Ukraine since February 2022. Russia has leaned heavily on Iran to supply its forces with a variety of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including kamikaze loitering munitions.
Similar to Iran, North Korea is isolated by the majority of the international community through sanctions. Putin is clearly desperate to procure additional military aid since he is willing to approach the Kim regime.
North Korea, Russia, and Iran also share a vehement anti-American hegemony sentiment. Moscow could be using the U.S.’s involvement in its ongoing invasion in order to persuade Pyongyang to join its side.
North Korea has carried out a litany of provocations in recent years, targeting its regional adversaries and threatening American presence on the Korean peninsula. In fact, since 2022, Pyongyang has launched at least 100 test launches and has pledged to carry out more.
Recently, Seoul reported that its northern neighbor had fired two short-range ballistic missiles to simulate nuclear strikes on military targets in South Korea.
North Korea’s army confirmed that the missiles had been fired late on Wednesday in a “tactical nuclear strike drill simulating scorched earth strikes at major command centers and operational airfields” in South Korea’s population centers.
The Kim regime has pointed to U.S.-Japanese-South Korean cooperation as the culprit behind its escalating hostile rhetoric. Washington and Seoul’s annual military drills are ongoing.
Separately, the U.S. Air Force is also conducting joint drills with Japan, which include B-1B bombers and F-15 fighter jets. Russia, North Korea, and Iran will likely turn toward each other and to Beijing in order to develop what they perceive as a counter to the U.S. and NATO.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
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