North Korea finds ‘role’ in Ukraine war

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North Korea, initially isolated from playing a role in the Russia-Ukraine war, has recently found a way to use its arms technology to get closer to Russia.

Washington warned on Tuesday this
week, reflecting the changing dynamics of the Ukraine-Russia war as 2023 draws to a close.

Julianne Smith, the US permanent representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), told a virtual press conference on Tuesday that both the US and its NATO allies were “concerned” by the growing romance between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the former’s war support for Russian troops in Ukraine.

Smith was speaking after visiting Tokyo and Seoul, traditional US defence allies on the Korean peninsula and in the wider Indo-Pacific region.

But as well as discussing political issues in the region, she said North Korea’s recent arms supplies to Russia were a cause for concern.

“The DPRK really should be a growing concern for all of us here at NATO, particularly given the recent developments that we’ve seen between the DPRK and Russia,” she said, referring
to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We are witnessing, really in real time, a growing relationship between these two countrie that we believe will not only extend Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine, but I think it also demonstrates the extent to which the dynamics that are playing out in the Indo-Pacific are having an increasingly direct impact on the NATO alliance.”

According to Washington, North Korea has transferred up to 1,000 containers of military equipment and ammunition to Russian troops since Kim and Putin met in Russia in September, reportedly delivered to Russia “by ship”.

“And as a result, we’ve been very strong in our condemnation of the DPRK or the DPRK for providing this kind of equipment to the Russians, which will undoubtedly be used to attack the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian cities, and further Russia’s illegitimate war.”

This isn’t the first condemnation from NATO allies. But when the first allegations emerged in October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed them as Western propaganda.

Lavrov argued that Moscow was seeking a ‘gradual improvement of bilateral relations’ with North Korea, with the long-term goal of strengthening peace and security in Northeast Asia.

He then condemned the US and its allies Japan and South Korea for their ‘growing military activity’ in the region, which he said was raising tensions.

Officials in Washington said they believed Russia was providing North Korea with military technology and other defence assistance n return.

Last week, however, reports emerged that some of the ammunition sent to Moscow was turning into a nightmare for troops.

The Ukrainian military news portal Defense Express reported on December 9 that some of the shells were exploding in the faces of Russian troops
or had already made them “less effective or even dangerous due to defects”.

Although Moscow hasn’t formally identfied these defects, Ukrainian military officers have pushed the claim on social media, saying that some of the shells received by Russian troops had injured soldiers trying to fire them, according to a statement on Wednesday this week.

The Kyiv Independent, which documents events on the Ukrainian war front, quoted a Ukrainian military statement which indicated that Russian troops operating in Dnipro in southern Ukraine had been wounded while using North Korean shells.

“We will certainly continue to monitor this situation for any additonal arms shipments to Russia.And we’re also increasingly concerned, by the way, about Russia’s own assistance to the DPRK,” Smith said in a virtual briefing on Tuesday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now in its 22nd month, with little sign of a political solution in sight.

The US recently agreed to provide mlitary assistance to Ukraine and joined Western
allies in imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Russia has responded by seeking allies in Africa and Asia.

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