The Korea Herald


N. Korea in active negotiations with Russia for arms deal: White House

By Yonhap

Published : Aug. 31, 2023 - 09:35

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting at the headquarters of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee in Pyongyang on July 26. (KCNA) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting at the headquarters of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee in Pyongyang on July 26. (KCNA)

WASHINGTON -- A group of Russian officials recently trip to North Korea, indicating a potential arms deal between the two countries, a US National Security Council official said Wednesday.

John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, said the trip may be followed by high-level discussions that could lead to the provision of North Korean weapons to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine.

"We have new information, which we are able to share today, that arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing," the NSC spokesperson told a virtual press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Following these negotiations, high level discussions may continue in coming months. Now, among these potential deals, Russia would receive significant quantities and multiple types of munitions from the DPRK, which the Russian military plans to use in Ukraine," he added.

The reported trip to North Korea by Russian officials follows a high-profile visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Pyongyang in July, which then prompted suspicions that the two close neighbors may be seeking to advance their military cooperation.

North Korea is said to have provided millions of infantry artillery shells and rockets to Russia late last year. North Korea has strongly and repeatedly dismissed the accusation.

"The DPRK has said publicly that they will not sell (weapons) to Russia. But we remain concerned that the DPRK continues to consider providing military support to Russia's military forces in Ukraine," Kirby told the press briefing.

"Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu recently traveled to the DPRK to try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia," he added. "Our information further indicates that following Shoigu's visit another group of Russian officials traveled to Pyongyang to follow up discussions about potential arms deals between the DPRK and Russia."

The NSC official noted that North Korea may also seek to provide raw materials for Russia's defense industrial base after Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanged letters calling for increased defense cooperation between their countries.

"These potential deals could also include the provision of raw materials that would assist Russia's defense industrial base, said Kirby, noting that "export controls and sanctions are very much targeted at trying to eliminate Russia's ability to have those kinds of raw materials and basic ingredients."

"We will continue to identify, expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK or frankly any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine," he added.

Kirby underscored that Russia's outreach to North Korea for weapons reflects the difficulties it currently faces.

"Why else would Mr. Putin had to be reaching out to ... rogue regimes? He is going to Iran, He's going to North Korea to try to get artillery shells and basic materials so that he can continue to shore up his defense industrial base," he told the press briefing.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit any transfer of weapons to or from the North.

" (An) arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would directly violate a number of UN Security Council resolutions. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia, and we are taking action directly to exposing and sanctioning individuals and entities working to facilitate arm deals between Russia and the DPRK," she told a daily press briefing.

The report about a potential arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow came hours after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, apparently to protest against a joint South Korea-US military exercise that began Monday.

"We have been very clear about this. (We) condemn the DPRK's latest ballistic missile launch," Jean-Pierre said when asked about North Korea's latest missile launch.

"This launch is in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and possesses a threat to the DPRK's neighbors and international community," she added.

The White House spokesperson called on North Korea to engage in dialogue, while reaffirming US commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan.

"We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on DPRK to engage in dialogue," she told the press briefing, adding, "Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea Japan remains ironclad." (Yonhap)