According to North Korea, Pyongyang has never supplied guns to Kremlin and has no plans to do so, despite American allegations that it is secretly transferring weapons to Kremlin for use in the conflict in Ukraine.
The announcement made on Tuesday by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) comes after John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesman, warned last week that the US had intelligence showing North Korea was giving Russia a “substantial” amount of artillery shells.
According to him, North Korea was trying to hide the shipments by passing them through nations in the Middle East and North Africa, and Washington was keeping an eye on things to see if the supplies were actually received.
The claims were dismissed as “rumours” by a representative of the North Korean defence ministry, who added that Pyongyang had “never engaged in arms deals” with Russia and had “no plans to do so in the future.”
In a statement published by KCNA, the official, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, stated, “We regard such moves of the US as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish the image of the DPRK in the international arena by invoking the illegal “sanctions resolution” of the (UN Security Council) against the DPRK.
The reprimand comes at a time when tensions on the Korean peninsula are at an all-time high following a series of nuclear tests by North Korea last week, including an ICBM, while the US and South Korea were engaged in their largest-ever air force drill.
North Korea may be ready for its first nuclear test since 2017, the US and South Korea have cautioned.
According to Kirby, the US thinks Pyongyang is sending a “substantial” amount of shells, but not enough to give Russia an edge over the Ukrainian military, which is receiving supplies from the US and NATO partners. Instead, the US thinks Pyongyang is sending sufficient shells to assist Russia to extend the eight-month conflict.
Pyongyang refuted in September a suggestion made in declassified US intelligence papers that North Korea intended to send artillery rounds and missiles to Moscow in order to aid Russia in restocking its exhausted arsenal.
Given how isolated Russia has become as a result of its involvement in the Ukraine War, any weaponry assistance would be another sign of growing connections between Moscow and Pyongyang.
The two pro-Russian breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) were recognised by North Korea, one of the few nations in the world. Additionally, it has stated its backing for Russia’s proclamation of the annexation of additional regions of the nation.
According to a statement by Victor Cha of the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “North Korea is clearly using the Ukraine war to tighten its relations with Russia.”
The shipments, according to Kirby, are “a sign of Russia’s own defense article shortages and needs,” as the nation is currently subject to international sanctions that are restricting its ability to resupply its armed forces.
Given that Russia holds a veto at the UN Security Council and can obstruct any actions there, the US is keeping an eye on the shipments, and interception may be an option, according to CSIS’s Cha.
He added, “To avoid any military altercations, US authorities could coordinate with willing countries to detain the cargo at customs to prevent their making it to the battlefield.”