Seoul, South Korea – North Korea denied American claims that it is shipping artillery shells and ammunition to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, accusing the United States of lying on Tuesday.
After conducting dozens of weapons tests, North Korea has denied testing a nuclear-capable short-range missile or an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland. Pyongyang has said it is testing missiles and artillery to strike “indiscriminately” at key targets in South Korea and the United States if it so chooses.
North Korea has been cozying up to its traditional ally Russia in recent years, even hinting at sending workers to help rebuild Russian-held territory in Ukraine. The United States has accused North Korea, one of the world’s most armed nations, of supplying Soviet-era weapons, including artillery shells, to supplement Russia’s depleting stockpiles in Ukraine.
Last week, Russia sent a trainload of 30 thoroughbred horses to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, opening its border with its neighbor for the first time in two and a half years. Kim is a jockey, and state media has depicted him riding a white Charger down snowy mountain roads. Orlov trotter horses are valued in Russia.
A spokesman for Russian Far Eastern Railways told state news agency Nov. 2 that the first train was bound for North Korea with 30 horses, and the next train was to carry medicine.
Experts say that as North Korea pursues more sophisticated weapons systems, it may be seeking Russian fuel as well as technology transfers and supplies needed to improve its military capabilities.
In September, North Korea resumed freight train service with its biggest trading partner, China, ending a five-month hiatus.
Last week, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused North Korea of secretly supplying Russia with “large” weapons shipments. He said the U.S. believes North Korea is trying to cover up the delivery route by making it appear as if North Korea is sending weapons to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.
“We believe that such a move by the United States is part of a hostile attempt to discredit (North Korea) on the international stage,” an unidentified deputy director of the military foreign affairs department of the North Korean Ministry was quoted as saying by the country’s media. .
“We make it clear once again that we have never had an ‘arms deal’ with Russia and have no plans to do so in the future,” the deputy director said.
In September, US officials confirmed newly declassified US intelligence that Russia was in the process of buying millions of missiles and artillery shells from North Korea. North Korea later denied the report and called on Washington to stop making “impossible statements” and “shut up.”
On Nov. 2, Kirby said the U.S. had “an idea” about which country or through which the North might transfer weapons, but did not specify. He said North Korean shipments “will not change the course of the war,” referring to Western efforts to supply Ukraine’s military.
Russia, hit by international sanctions and export controls, bought an Iranian-made drone in August that U.S. officials said had technical problems. For Russia, North Korea could be another good ammunition supply alternative, analysts say, because North Korea has a large stockpile of ammunition, most of which dates back to the Soviet era.
While shunned by most of Europe and the West, North Korea has sought to improve relations with Russia, blaming the US for the crisis, Western “hegemonic policies” and justifying Russia’s self-defense military action in Ukraine. In July, North Korea became the only country besides Russia and Syria to recognize the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
North Korea’s possible supply of arms to Russia would be a violation of UN resolutions that prohibit North Korea from trading arms with other countries. But North Korea is unlikely to face further sanctions amid the U.N. Security Council’s conflict with Russia over the war in Ukraine and its separate strategic rivalry with China.
Earlier this year, Russia and China vetoed a US-led attempt to tighten sanctions against North Korea over a series of ballistic missile tests banned by several UN Security Council resolutions.
Some observers believe North Korea is also using Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as a window to ramp up its weapons testing and pressure the United States and South Korea. Last week, the North tested dozens of missiles in response to large-scale US-South Korean air drills, which Pyongyang sees as a drill for a potential attack.
In a separate statement carried by the country’s state media on Tuesday, North Korea’s top diplomat condemned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent missile launch, calling him a “promisor” of the US government.
The Deputy Minister of International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Kim Song-kyung, said, “It is very unfortunate that the Secretary-General of the United Nations is speaking the words of the White House and the State Department like their mouths.”
Kim said Guterres’ “dishonest and biased behavior” had contributed to further escalating tensions in the region.
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