North Korea: Denies Sending Arms to Russia Amid Its War on Ukraine

North Korea says it hasn’t sent any weapons to Russia during its ongoing war against Ukraine and doesn’t plan to do so, despite U.S. intelligence reports of weapons transfers. North Korea accused the U.S. of attempting to tarnish the country’s image with the claims. 

In a recent state media report, an unnamed North Korean defense official told the United States to “keep its mouth shut” and to stop making “reckless remarks.” Officials with the Biden administration stated earlier this month that a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment confirmed Russia was in the process of purchasing arms from North Korea. The arms purchase includes millions of rockets and artillery shells as the Kremlin seeks to lessen severe supply shortages worsened by sanctions and export controls imposed by the United States. 

North Korea’s statement comes weeks after Moscow classified the U.S. intelligence findings as “fake.” Exporting arms by North Korea to Russia would violate United Nations resolutions banning it from exporting or importing weapons. 

The North Korean officials emphasized that North Korea has never recognized the “unlawful” U.N. Security Council sanctions against it, “cooked up by the U.S. and its vassal forces.” The official continued saying that importing and exporting military equipment is a “lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state,” according to a statement translated into English and published by the country’s official Korean News Agency.

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

“It’s not sure from where the rumor originated which the U.S. is spreading, but it is aimed at tarnishing the DPRK’s image,” said the official, when referring to the country’s formal name — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Russia purchases weapons, drones despite sanctions

Despite being sanctioned, Russia purchased Iran-made drones in August that U.S. officials said had technical problems. Defense experts say if North Korea is willing, it could become a significant source of artillery, small arms, and other ammunition for Russia, keeping in mind that North Korea’s defense systems are compatible with Russia’s and have Soviet roots.

North Korea continues to seek to tighten relations with Russia, even while the West and Europe have pulled back. The Communist country blames the U.S. for the crisis and criticizes the West’s “hegemonic policy” as a reason for the military action by Russia against Ukraine as a means to “protect” itself.

The government of North Korea has hinted it is interested in providing construction workers to Russia to help pro-Russia breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. In July, North Korea became the only nation except for Syria and Russia to recognize the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk’s territories.

Additionally, North Korea has used the war as a means to accelerate its development of arms by exploiting a divide in the U.N. Security Council, where both China and Russia have blocked attempts by the United States to tighten sanctions on North Korea, and test its first long-range missiles since 2017, along with dozens of other weapons.

The North has ramped up its nuclear testing activity along with frequent threats of nuclear conflict with Washington and South Korea. The latest move was a law passed by North Korea’s parliament this month that authorized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons over a wide range of scenarios when it feels its leadership is under threat and cements the country’s status as a nuclear power.

The Biden administration’s special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, recently met with Kim Gunn, his South Korean counterpart, who voiced “serious concern” over the North’s rapidly escalating nuclear doctrine, spelled out in the new law.

The two diplomats discussed “stern” countermeasures to the actions. They reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defend South Korea with a full range of military capabilities, including nuclear, in the event of a nuclear war. According to the ministry, they also maintained their long-held assessment that North Korea is ramping up the action in preparation for its first nuclear test since 2017.