WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the White House made the accusation that North Korea had secretly sent a “substantial number” of artillery shells to Russia in order to provide support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United States is under the impression that North Korea is “trying to make it appear as though they are being shipped to countries in the Middle East or North Africa,” according to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. He refused to offer a particular estimate on the quantity of ammunition that was being sent to Russia to boost their efforts.
Kirby asserted that North Korea “is covertly delivering” the munitions to Russia, but he added that “we are currently watching this to establish whether the shipments are actually received.” He also stated that the United States has “some idea” as to which country or countries North Korea may be using as a conduit for the transfer of weapons, but he refused to provide specifics on this matter because the administration is still considering how it may react to North Korea’s conduct.
Kirby reiterated that the North Korean supplies are “not going to affect the trajectory of the fight,” referencing the efforts that the West is doing to resupply the Ukrainian military. The White House declined to comment on the form of transportation that the supplies to Russia would take, as well as whether or not the United States or other countries would attempt to intercept them.
After an initial allegation that U.S. intelligence officials had determined that the Russian Ministry of Defense was in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its ongoing fight in Ukraine, the White House revealed the new intelligence approximately two months after making the initial allegation.
While the government was disclosing information on the secret shipments of artillery shells to North Korea, the White House should have also been working to minimize the significance of the shipments. Kirby stated that “we do not believe that they are in such a quantity that they will shift the direction of this battle or tangibly change the momentum either in the east or in the south,” which are two regions in Ukraine that are experiencing some of the heaviest combat.
This finding comes after it was reported in August by the administration of former Vice President Joe Biden that the Russian military had taken delivery of hundreds of drones built in Iran for use on the battlefield in Ukraine. According to the administration of former President Joe Biden, Iran has dispatched personnel to areas of Crimea under Russian control in order to offer operational and technical assistance for drones. Officials from Iran have disputed reports that their country has provided Russia with drones or any other support.
As much of the West has pulled away, North Korea has been working to strengthen its ties with Russia. It has done so while blaming the United States for the crisis in Ukraine and condemning the “hegemonic policy” of the West as the reason that Russia has been forced to take military action in Ukraine to protect itself. The government of North Korea has shown an interest in sending construction workers to eastern Ukraine to assist in the reconstruction of Russian-occupied regions.
After meeting with envoys from two Russia-backed separatist territories in the Donbas region of Ukraine, the North Korean ambassador to Moscow expressed optimism about potential cooperation in the “field of labor migration.” He cited his nation’s easing of pandemic border controls as the reason for his optimism.
In July, North Korea became the only nation other than Russia and Syria to recognize the independence of the territories, Donetsk and Luhansk, further aligning itself with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Russia and Syria are the only nations to have done so.
It would be a violation of United Nations resolutions that forbid the country from exporting weapons to other countries or importing weapons from other nations for North Korea to sell weapons to Russia. It is likely that North Korea would send workers to areas of Ukraine that are controlled by Russia.
If it does so, this will be a violation of a United Nations resolution that requires all member nations to ensure that all North Korean personnel are removed from their territory by 2019.
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