Artillery ammunition

United States: Russia could be on the verge of buying “millions” of North Korean shells and rockets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia could be on the verge of buying “literally millions” of artillery shells and rockets from former Cold War ally North Korea, the White House said on Tuesday. , calling it further evidence of Moscow’s “desperation” over supply shortages for its war in Ukraine.

FILE PHOTO: State flags of Russia and North Korea flutter on a street near a train station during North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to Vladivostok, Russia April 25, 2019. REUTERS / Yuri Maltsev

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, previously dismissed reports by US officials, which first appeared in The New York Times, citing recently declassified US intelligence that Russia was making such purchases.

“I haven’t heard it and I think it’s another fake going around,” he told reporters.

US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told a press conference on Tuesday that Russia “is buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from South Korea. North to use them in Ukraine”.

However, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said shortly after that there was “no indication that this purchase has been finalized and certainly no indication that these weapons are being used at any time.” inside Ukraine”.

Calling it a “potential purchase”, Kirby told a briefing: “We have a feeling this could include literally millions of rounds, rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. That’s what that our information gives us – it could be on this scale.

“We have no indication that the purchase actually took place, so it’s hard to say what it will look like,” Kirby added.

He said it was “just another indication of Putin’s desperation…It’s an indication of how much his defense industrial establishment is suffering because of this war and the degree of desperation.”

US officials said additional Russian purchases of North Korean military equipment were expected.

Ukraine has recently launched counter-offensives in several places. In preparation for these attacks, Ukrainian forces struck Russian supply areas, including those containing artillery and ammunition.

Officials have said Western sanctions here limit Russia’s ability to replace vehicles and weapons destroyed in Ukraine.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

North Korean experts have said Pyongyang wants to raise money through arms sales to counter international sanctions, which Russia has in the past supported, over its nuclear and missile programs.

Vedant said the Russian purchases would violate UN sanctions that bar UN member states from sourcing weapons from North Korea.

“What is particularly worrying here is that a permanent member of the Security Council is flouting these measures,” he said, referring to Russia.

Alastair Morgan, Britain’s ambassador to North Korea from 2015 to 2018 and who was also coordinator of the UN group of experts that monitors the application of sanctions against North Korea, said during a webinar that he had no information to verify the report on the Russian purchases, but added:

“If it were possible, I’m sure (North Korea) would sell weapons to anyone who took them.”

He noted that Pyongyang has repeatedly expressed its support for Russia in Ukraine and clearly wants to remain on good terms with Russia, as well as China, so that they continue to block any further Security Council sanctions from the UN against Pyongyang.

Jenny Town of the Washington-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North said the reports were “very plausible” after recent high-level statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledging cooperation. further.

“There are reports of Russian wheat and oil supplies to North Korea, and certainly the North Koreans are not providing supplies for free,” she said.

Last month, North Korean media quoted Putin as telling Kim their countries would expand “comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations”, while Kim said bilateral “strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity” had reached a new level in a joint effort to frustrate hostile military forces. .

(This story corrects paragraph four to add deleted word.)

Reporting and writing by Gerry Doyle and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis; Editing by Michael Perry, Alistair Bell and Lincoln Feast