The US, South Korea, and Japan strongly condemned the supply of military equipment by North Korea to Russia and said these deliveries would significantly increase the human toll of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
The US and its Asian allies said in a joint statement they could now confirm that such weapons deliveries have taken place between the two countries which are isolated on the world stage.
The condemnation came amid increasing speculation of an arms deal between Russia and North Korea following a number of high-profile visits between the diplomats and leaders of both the countries.
“Such weapons deliveries, several of which we now confirm have been completed, will significantly increase the human toll of Russia’s war of aggression.
“We will continue to work together with the international community to expose Russia’s attempts to acquire military equipment from (North Korea),” said the top diplomats of the three countries.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations that Russia was receiving munitions from North Korea, claiming instead that Washington has failed to prove the charge.
Both countries have increasingly sought to rely on each other as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approached its second winter.
Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo said they were closely monitoring any materials that Russia provides to North Korea in support of Kim Jong-un’s military objectives.
“We are deeply concerned about the potential for any transfer of nuclear- or ballistic missile-related technology to (North Korea),” the statement said.
The joint condemnation signed by South Korean foreign minister Park Jin, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, and Japanese foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa also underscored that arms transfers to and from North Korea would violate UN Security Council resolutions, which Russia, a permanent Security Council member, previously voted for.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Pyongyang— (via REUTERS)
Earlier this year, the North Korean leader had visited Russia and met Mr Putin in the most prominent sign that the countries were looking to prop up their regimes by supporting each other by sharing military hardware and technology.
The talks reportedly focused on an arms deal in exchange for technological support to Pyongyang’s fledgling space programme.
Just last week, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov also visited Pyongyang and met the North Korean leader. Both leaders praised the ties between their countries that they said had increased to a “new level”.
Mr Lavrov said in a reception speech that Moscow “deeply” valued Pyongyang’s “unwavering and principled support” for Russia in the war.
The meeting was seen as groundwork for a potential second summit between Mr Kim and Mr Putin after the Kremlin leader accepted the invitation to travel to North Korea at “a convenient time”.
Analysts have said the two countries have been forced to turn to each other as they have been isolated on the world stage.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Russian president Vladimir Putin talk at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, on 13 September 2023
North Korea’s supply of its arsenal holds importance for Moscow as it has been going through artillery shells, missiles and other munitions for its Ukraine invasion.
This comes as Moscow’s domestic production has struggled to keep up with biting Western sanctions as Ukraine has unleashed a months-long counteroffensive that has been rolling on since June.
Earlier this month, the White House claimed North Korea delivered more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia.
The White House released satellite images it said showed the containers were loaded onto a Russian-flagged ship before being moved via train to southwestern Russia.
A US think-tank had last month shared satellite images showing continued activity around a North Korean port near Russia. It captured at least six trips by sea between North Korea’s port of Rajin and Russia’s Dunai port since late August.
These shipments were possibly related to the transfer of North Korean munitions to Russia, the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies had said.