WASHINGTON (AP) — The Russian Defense Ministry is buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for the ongoing fighting in Ukraineaccording to newly downgraded U.S. intelligence findings.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Russia was turning to the isolated North Korean state, a sign that “Russian forces continue to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine as part of export controls and sanctions.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe the Russians may consider buying more North Korean military equipment in the future. The intelligence discovery was first reported by The New York Times.
The U.S. official did not elaborate on how much weapons Russia intends to buy from North Korea.
The discovery comes after the Biden administration recently confirmed that the Russian military received Iranian-made drones for use on battlefields in Ukraine in August.
The White House said last week that Russia encountered technical problems when it bought Iranian-made drones from Tehran in August to use in the war with Ukraine.
Russia collected the Mohajer-6 and Shahed series of drones over several days last month as part of what the Biden administration said could be part of Russia’s plan to buy hundreds of Iranian drones for use in Ukraine.
North Korea tries to strengthen ties with Russia Much of Europe and the West has withdrawn, blaming the U.S. for the Ukraine crisis and condemning the West’s “hegemonic policy” for justifying Russia’s military action in Ukraine to protect itself.
North Koreans signal interest in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territory in the east of the country.
North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow recently met envoys from two Russian-backed separatist territories in Ukraine’s Donbas region and expressed optimism about cooperation in the “field of labor migration,” citing North Korea’s easing of pandemic border controls.
In July, North Korea became the only country other than Russia and Syria to recognize the territorial independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, further aligning itself with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
North Korea’s arms exports to Russia would violate UN resolutions prohibiting the country from exporting or importing arms to other countries. Its possible dispatch of labor to Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory would also violate a U.N. resolution that requires all member states to repatriate all North Korean workers from their territories by 2019.
There are suspicions that China and Russia have not yet fully implemented U.N. sanctions on North Korea, complicating the U.S.-led attempt to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s provocative move comes as the Biden administration is increasingly concerned about North Korea’s increased activity in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
North Korea has tested more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017, as leader Kim Jong Un pushes forward with its nuclear arsenal in defiance of U.S.-led pressure and sanctions.
In the midst of the bitter war in Ukraine, the United States has often downgraded and released intelligence findings to highlight Russia’s misinformation operations plan or draw attention to Moscow’s difficulties in prosecuting the war. Ukraine’s smaller army put up a stubborn resistance to the militarily dominant Russian army.
Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Kim have recently shared mutual trust, and they have both called for “comprehensive” and “strategic and tactical” cooperation between the two countries. Moscow issued a statement condemning the resumption of large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea this year, which North Korea considers an invasion exercise.
Russia joined China in calling on the United Nations to ease sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests. Both countries are members of the United Nations Security Council, which has approved 11 rounds of sanctions on North Korea since 2006. In May, Russia and China rejected a U.S.-led proposal to impose new economic sanctions on North Korea over a cross-sectional missile test this year.
Some experts say Kim Jong-un may strengthen his resolve to keep nuclear weapons because he may think the Russian attack happened because Ukraine had signed up to a nuclear arsenal.
Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang date back to North Korea’s founding in 1948, when Soviet officials named the young, ambitious nationalist Kim Il-sung (Kim Jong-un’s late grandfather) as the country’s first ruler. Since then, Soviet aid has been key to North Korea’s economic sustenance in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Moscow has since established formal diplomatic relations with Seoul as part of its efforts to attract South Korean investment and allow its Soviet-era military alliance with North Korea to expire. But after being elected in 2000, Putin aggressively sought to restore his country’s ties with North Korea, which is seen as a bid to restore its traditional sphere of influence and ensure more allies deal better with the United States.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.