North Korea claims it has not and will not send any weapons to Russia during the conflict in Ukraine, and that U.S. intelligence accusations of weapons transfers are an attempt to smear North Korea’s reputation.
On Thursday, North Korean state media reported that an anonymous defense official had warned the United States to “keep its mouth shut” and cease making “reckless remarks.” This month, officials from the Biden administration confirmed a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia was buying arms from North Korea, including millions of artillery shells and rockets, in an effort to alleviate severe supply shortages in Ukraine brought on by U.S.-led export controls and sanctions.
Weeks after Russia dismissed the American intelligence finding as “false,” North Korea issued a statement.
If North Korea were to sell weapons to Russia, it would be in direct defiance of UN resolutions that forbid the country from doing so.
An official from North Korea said the sanctions against his country by the United Nations Security Council were “cooked up by the U.S. and its vassal forces,” and that Pyongyang has never regarded them as legal. The official referred to the export and import of military equipment as a “lawful privilege specific to a sovereign state” in a statement that was translated into English and released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
Still, we’d like to take this chance to clarify something. The official, who was identified as a vice director general of the National Defense Ministry’s general equipment office, added, “We have never sent weapons or ammunition to Russia before, and we will not plan to export them.”
The official used the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), to refer to the United States. “It is not sure where the story began which the U.S. is spreading, but it is aimed at ruining the DPRK’s image,” the official said.
Russia, which is subject to sanctions and export regulations, reportedly purchased drones produced in Iran in August despite claims by U.S. authorities that the drones had technical flaws. Since both countries’ defense systems have Soviet roots, experts think North Korea might become a major source of small weapons, artillery, and other ammunition for Russia if it so chooses.
Although most of Europe and the West have distanced themselves from Russia because of the crisis in Ukraine, North Korea has sought to strengthen ties with Russia. Pyongyang has blamed the United States for the crisis and has condemned the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justifying military action by Russia in Ukraine.
There have been hints from the North Korean authorities that they would send construction workers to the east of Ukraine to help restore pro-Russian breakaway districts. The North Korean government officially acknowledged the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk in July, making it the only country besides Russia and Syria to do so.
Taking advantage of the split in the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China have blocked U.S. attempts to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang, North Korea has used the war as an opportunity to accelerate its own arms development, testing dozens of weapons, including its first long-range missiles since 2017.
The North has threatened a nuclear battle with Seoul and Washington on multiple occasions, which has coincided with its testing activity. This month, Pyongyang’s puppet parliament passed a legislation cementing the country’s status as a nuclear power and authorizing the use of nuclear weapons in a wide variety of situations when the country’s leadership is threatened.
The Foreign Ministry of South Korea reported on Thursday that Sung Kim, the Biden administration’s special envoy for North Korea, met with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Gunn, in Seoul, expressing “severe concern” about the North’s increasing nuclear policy as outlined in the new law.
U.S. diplomats repeated their country’s resolve to use all of its military might, including nuclear weapons, to protect South Korea in the event of a nuclear conflict. According to the ministry, the allies have also considered “stern” actions for the event that North Korea conducts its first nuclear test since 2017. This is an assessment that has been held by the allies for months.