North Korea denies exporting arms to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine

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North Korea says it hasn’t exported any weapons to Russia during the war in Ukraine and has no plans to do so, and said US intelligence reports of weapons transfers were an attempt to tarnish North Korea’s image. 

In a state media report on Thursday, an unnamed North Korean defence official told the US to stop making “reckless remarks” and to “keep its mouth shut”. 

Biden administration officials earlier this month confirmed a declassified US intelligence assessment that Russia was in the process of purchasing arms from North Korea, including millions of artillery shells and rockets, as Moscow attempts to ease severe supply shortages in Ukraine worsened by US-led export controls and sanctions.

The North Korean statement came weeks after Moscow described the US intelligence finding as “fake”.

North Korean arms exports to Russia would violate United Nations resolutions banning the country from importing or exporting weapons.

The North Korean official stressed that Pyongyang has never recognised the “unlawful” UN Security Council sanctions against the country “cooked up by the US and its vassal forces”. 

The official said the export and import of military equipment is a “lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state,” according to an English translation of the statement published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Russian army tanks are loaded onto railway platforms.
The US says Russia is purchasing arms from North Korea.(AP: Russian Defense Ministry)

“But we take this opportunity to make clear one thing. We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them,” said the official, who was described as a vice director general of the National Defence Ministry’s general equipment bureau.

“It is not sure from where the rumour originated which the US is spreading, but it is aimed at tarnishing the DPRK’s image,” the official said.

Facing sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iranian-made drones that US officials said had technical problems.

Experts say North Korea, if willing, could become a major source of small arms, artillery and other ammunition for Russia, considering the compatibility of their defence systems based on Soviet roots.

North Korea seeks closer relations with Russia

North Korea has sought to tighten relations with Russia even as most of Europe and the West has pulled away, blaming the US for the crisis and decrying the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justifying military action by Russia in Ukraine to protect itself.

The North Korean government has even hinted it is interested in sending construction workers to help rebuild pro-Russia breakaway regions in Ukraine’s east.

In July, North Korea became the only nation aside from Russia and Syria to recognise the independence of the territories, Donetsk and Luhansk.



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