The Korea Herald


N. Korea recently sent several dozen ballistic missiles to Russia: US official

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 5, 2024 - 09:14

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This image shows Russia's recent launch of North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine. (White House) This image shows Russia's recent launch of North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine. (White House)

North Korea recently provided Russia with several dozen ballistic missiles as well as ballistic missile launchers, a US official said Thursday, as Moscow seeks to replenish its weapons stockpiles amid its protracted war in Ukraine.

The shipment came in defiance of repeated warnings by Washington, Seoul and other governments that such arms transactions between Pyongyang and Moscow would run afoul of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

"Due in part to our sanctions and export controls, Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage and been forced to look to like-minded states for military equipment. As we have been warning publicly, one of those states is North Korea," the official told Yonhap News Agency via email.

"Our information indicates that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several dozen ballistic missiles," the official added, referring to the North by its official name.

Confirming the missile shipments, John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that Russian forces launched at least one of the North Korean missiles into Ukraine last Saturday and multiple ones into the war-torn country on Tuesday.

The North Korean missiles in point have ranges of about 900 kilometers, he explained, noting that the shipment is a "significant and concerning" escalation in the North's support for Russia.

"We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches, and we anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians," Kirby told a press briefing.

Considering the estimated firing range, the North Korean missiles are presumed to be KN-23, which are similar to Russia's Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, according to Seoul military officials.

In March 2023, the North fired KN-23 missiles from a transporter erector launcher in protest of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.

In return for the North's arms support, the US assesses that Pyongyang is seeking military assistance from Russia, "including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment or materials, and other advanced technologies."

"This would have concerning security implications for the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

In response to such arms transactions, the US has been taking a range of steps, including raising the issue at the UNSC to hold Russia accountable as well as considering additional sanctions against those facilitating those transfers, according to Kirby.

In a separate statement, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the UN lambasted the North and Russia, saying they are "blatantly" violating the UN arms embargo on the North that prohibits all UN members from procuring arms or related material from the North and bans the North from exporting them.

"The United States will continue to work with allies and partners to identify, expose, and counter the Russian government's attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK or any state that is prepared to support the Kremlin's war in Ukraine, she said.

"We will raise this issue in the January 10 Security Council briefing on Ukraine. And we will keep strengthening cooperation to address the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs," she added.

Earlier in the day, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials, that in the past several weeks, Pyongyang has begun to ship short-range ballistic missiles to eastern Russia.

In October, the White House revealed that the North had delivered more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia for use in Ukraine.

The transaction came amid persistent speculation that the Sept. 13 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Russian spaceport might have led to an arms deal. (Yonhap)