WASHINGTON – Our enemy and our other enemy are friends.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently made a desperate trip to North Korea to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Moscow for use in its 18-month-old war on Ukraine, the White House revealed on Wednesday.
“Arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, using the official acronym for North Korea.
Since Shoigu’s trip, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been exchanging letters, “pledging to increase their bilateral cooperation,” according to Kirby.
“Our information further indicates that following Shoigu’s visit, another group of Russian officials traveled to Pyongyang for follow-on discussions about potential arms deals between the DPRK and Russia,” he said. “Following these negotiations, high level discussions may continue in coming months.”
The North Korea contacts continue a theme of Russia reaching out to fellow US adversaries, such as Iran, to secure weapons for use in Ukraine — which is heavily supported with military aid from more than 50 countries, including America.
While North Korea has publicly stated that they will not sell arms to Russia, US officials “remain concerned that [they] continue to consider providing military support to Russia’s military forces in Ukraine,” Kirby said.
“Toward the end of last year, [North Korea] delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner [mercenary group,]” Kirby said. “Since then, Russia has been actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from [them] on numerous occasions.”
Formerly one of the strongest forces fighting for Russia in Ukraine, the Wagner Group is no longer considered a serious threat in Ukraine following the recent death of its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Kremlin is suspected of shooting down Prigozhin’s plane on Aug. 23, two months after he led an attempted coup against Putin’s government
While Kirby did not specify what weapons may be included in the new potential deals, intelligence suggests they involve “significant quantities and multiple types of initiatives” from North Korea that the Russian military plans to use in Ukraine, Kirby said.
“An arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would directly violate a number of UN Security Council resolutions,” Kirby said.
The deals with North Korea could also involve provisions of raw materials to support Russia’s defense industrial base, which has suffered under international trade restrictions levied since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
“Export controls and sanctions are very much targeted at trying to eliminate Russia’s ability to to have those kinds of raw materials and basic ingredients to to provide to provide to the military manufacturing capability,” Kirby said.
Washington is “monitoring the situation closely” and is ready to tale action “by exposing and sanctioning individuals and entities working to facilitate arms deals between these two countries,” Kirby said.
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