Seoul, South Korea — North Korea has denied US claims that it is sending artillery and ammunition to Russia for use in a war against Russia. UkraineAnd on Tuesday accused the United States of lying.
The denial comes amid dozens of weapons tests by North Korea, including short-range missiles that may be nuclear-capable and an intercontinental ballistic missile that could target the US mainland. Pyongyang said it was testing missiles and artillery so it could “mercilessly” attack South Korean and US targets if it chose.
North Korea has been cozying up to traditional ally Russia in recent years and has even signaled sending workers to rebuild Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine. The United States has accused North Korea, one of the world’s most heavily armed nations, of supplying Soviet-era ammunition such as artillery to replenish depleted Russian stockpiles in Ukraine.
Last week, Russia sent a trainload of 30 thoroughbred horses to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and opened its border with its neighbor for the first time in 2 1/2 years. Kim is an avid horse rider and is often pictured by state media galloping down snowy mountain trails on a white charger. Orlov trotters are expensive horses in Russia.
A spokesman for Russia’s Far Eastern Railway told state news agencies on November 2 that the first train had left for North Korea with 30 horses and the next train was to carry medicine.
Experts say North Korea is also seeking Russian fuel and technology transfers and supplies as it pursues more sophisticated weapons systems needed to boost its military capabilities.
In September, North Korea resumed its freight train service ChinaIts largest trading partner, ending a five-month hiatus.
Last week, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused North Korea of secretly supplying Russia with “significant numbers” of ammunition. He said the United States believes North Korea is trying to obscure transfer routes by making it appear that weapons are being shipped to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.
“We consider such moves by the United States as part of its hostility to tarnish (North Korea’s) image in the international arena,” an unnamed vice president of the North Korean ministry’s military foreign affairs office said in a statement carried by state media. .
“We make it clear once again that we have never had ‘arms deals’ with Russia and we have no plans to do so in the future,” the vice president said.
In September, US officials confirmed US intelligence that Russia was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery pieces from North Korea. North Korea later dismissed the report and urged Washington to stop “reckless criticism” and “keep its mouth shut”.
On November 2, Kirby said the US had an “idea” from which country or countries the North might drop weapons but would not specify. He said the North Korean shipment “will not change the course of the war”, citing Western efforts to resupply the Ukrainian military.
Slapped by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iran-made drones that US officials said had technical problems. For Russia, experts say North Korea is another good option for its ammunition supply, as the North maintains large stockpiles of missiles, many of which are Soviet-era replicas.
While most of Europe and the West have pulled away, North Korea has sought to foster ties with Russia, blaming the United States for the crisis and rejecting the West’s “hegemonic policy” while supporting Russia’s military action in Ukraine to protect itself. In July, North Korea became the only nation besides Russia and Syria to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent.
North Korea’s supply of arms to Russia is a violation of United Nations resolutions that prohibit the North from trading arms with other countries. But North Korea is unlikely to receive new sanctions because of divisions in the UN Security Council over the war in Ukraine and US conflicts with Russia over its independent strategic rivalry with China.
Earlier this year, Russia and China have already vetoed efforts to tighten US-led sanctions on North Korea over a series of ballistic missile tests barred by several UN Security Council resolutions.
Some observers say North Korea is using the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a window to increase weapons testing activity and increase pressure on the United States and South Korea. Last week, the North test-fired dozens of missiles in response to large-scale US-South Korea air drills that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible attack.
In a separate statement published by state media on Tuesday, a senior North Korean diplomat criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent condemnation of North Korea’s missile launch barrage, calling it a “mouthpiece” for the US government.
“The UN secretary general is echoing what the White House and the State Department say as if it is their mouthpiece, which is regrettable,” said Kim Son Gyeong, vice minister of international organizations at North Korea’s foreign ministry.
Kim said Guterres’ “inappropriate and prejudicial behavior” had contributed to heightened tensions in the region.
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