What do we know about North Korean weapons sent to Russia

The United States they pointed the finger at the North Koreaaccusing her of supplying weapons to the Russian private military group Wagnerengaged in fighting in the war in Ukraine. “We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner. Last month it delivered rockets and infantry missiles to Russia for use by Wagner,” he said John Kirbyspokesman for the US National Security Council, adding that new supplies could leave Pyongyang in the coming months.

The Japanese media have relaunched the indiscretion. On the contrary: as reported by the Tokyo Shimbunlast month the North Korean government reportedly shipped a supply of ammunition, including artillery shells, to Russia via train and through the border in common. The same newspaper predicted that there would be further shipments within a few weeks, as confirmed by the US version.

The point is that both Washington and Tokyo have yet to submit evidence public to confirm their theses. Linda Thomas-GreenfieldHowever, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations said that alleged North Korean arms sales to the Russians “also contribute to instability on the Korean peninsula,” effectively funding WMD and ballistic missile programs. of Pyongyang.

In other words, the US government considers Russia a “partner“, as well as complicit in the “illegal and threatening behavior” of North Korea through its multiple and escalating missile launches, in violation of UN sanctions.

Doubts and trials

For its part, North Korea has denied of having sold arms to Russia, in turn accusing the United States of trying to damage its reputation by spreading false news. At the same time, however, last September Pyongyang claimed to be a sovereign state and to have the right to sell arms to other countries.

Through a statement released by the North Korean agency kcnathe North Korean Foreign Ministry reiterated that “North Korea remains unchanged in its principled position on the issue of the arms transaction with Russia, which never happened.”

Diplomatic tensions rose further when Pyongyang accused the United States of “bringing bloodshed and destruction to Ukraine” by supplying weapons to Kiev, and praised Russia for defending “the security and territorial integrity of its country without the military support of anyone else”.

We recall that in September Washington accused Russia of wanting to buy weapons from North Korea, while in November it made it known that Pyongyang had begun supplying Moscow with artillery shells by masking shipments by sea and directing them to the Middle East and North Africa. Now, for the first time, the White House has mentioned the Wagner group.

But what do we know about these military expeditions? Still nothing. Or rather: the US has yet to release any further details or damning evidence regarding the arms shipments and how they were transported. “There is still no tangible evidence of North Korean weaponry in Russian hands, and evidence of trains crossing the border into Russia has been sporadic,” he told NK News analyst Joost Oliemans. “Rockets and infantry missiles aren’t exactly a very specific description, although I would venture to guess that rocket-propelled grenades like the RPG-7 are implied by the first term,” he added, yet still characterizing the information as too “vague“.

Kim and Putin

While waiting to know more about the alleged North Korean weapons shipped to the Wagner group (which ones, how many and how), it is worth asking why Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin have chosen to strengthen their ties.

Some argue that the fact that Putin is turning to North Korea to ask for some form of support is a sign of the despair and of Russia’s isolation. In reality, the convergence between Moscow and Pyongyang could be about one of them double shared goal: balance the pressure of the United States and Japan in Asia, seen that Tokyo and Washington they are common enemies of Kim and Putin.

In any case, if it is true that North Korea has become closer, it is equally true that we have no certainties to weigh this closeness. In other words, we don’t know if Pyongyang has really sent arms or has, for the moment, limited itself to supporting Moscow in diplomatic offices, in exchange for resources (energy).

However, the indiscretion of weapons assumes a certain relevance in relation to a report by the think tank 38 North. Last December 12th satellite images commercials collected by the site indicated a delivery of goods unspecified carried out from Russia allo railway yard of North Korea a Tumangang. In late November and early December, unloaded cargo was seen at least twice alongside the trains. This activity came about a month after the first train was observed crossing the bridge between the two countries several years after the last time.

Pyongyang had announced in September the resumption of traffic railway with Russia, suspended for almost three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on this, trade between the two countries resumed. Not only that: the expansion of the cargo handling area in Tumangang also indicates that the North expects an increase in the volume of goods compared to the pre-Covid years. In short, in the immediate future, Kim could become an even more important partner for Putin. This is probably where Washington’s concern about weapons comes from. The hypothesis that arms can transit from the Russian-North Korean border is therefore not remote, even if difficult to prove.

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What do we know about North Korean weapons sent to Russia