WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) — The United States is working with allies and partners to monitor North Korea’s supply of artillery shells to Russia, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
Brig. General Pat Ryder declined to say whether the United States was seeking to ban North Korean shipments.
“I don’t want to get into specific conversations with allies and partners. Certainly we have raised concerns about North Korea, and we will continue to work with our allies and partners regarding anything that might destabilize or cause problems in the region,” he said at a press briefing.
“I don’t want to speak on behalf of our allies,” he added when asked if any US allies might try to stop the shipments. “Again, this is something we will continue to watch very closely.”
The Defense Department spokesman earlier said the North was trying to covertly supply a “significant number of artillery shells” to Russia for use in Ukraine while obscuring their destination by funneling them to countries third from North Africa or the Middle East.
“I don’t have any specific updates to provide other than, again, (that) we assess that Russia is seeking ammunition from North Korea and North Korea is seeking to secretly supply that, again, as you pointed out, via North Africa and the Middle East,” Ryder said.
Pyongyang dismissed the US report as a baseless rumor aimed at tarnishing its image, saying it never sold arms to Russia.
State Department press secretary Ned Price said the North was seeking to supply “millions” of artillery shells to Moscow.
Ryder insisted that the so-called ammunition deal between Russia and North Korea showed how isolated the two countries were.
“It’s just indicative of the fact that Russia finds itself having to deal with countries like Iran and North Korea to replenish its own stockpiles,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
He said the United States, by contrast, was working with “a lot of different countries” when asked about a possible ammunition purchase deal with South Korea.
“What I would say is that the United States has worked with many different countries, in terms of working with their defense industrial base, to identify ammunition procurement opportunities when it comes to not only to supply them to Ukraine, but also to replenish everyone’s stock,” Ryder said.
An earlier report suggested the United States was looking to buy artillery shells from South Korea for delivery to Ukraine.
The Seoul Defense Ministry confirmed ongoing talks between the United States and a South Korean defense company over a possible deal, but rejected a possible South Korean arms delivery to Ukraine, saying that discussions were taking place on the premise that the munitions would be used by the United States.