South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) suspects that since August, North Korea has supplied over a million artillery shells to Russia, aiding its conflict in Ukraine. This claim, presented by lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum following a confidential briefing, suggests a deepening alliance between North Korea and Russia, marked by increasing diplomatic engagements, including a September summit between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.
This partnership raises alarms over a potential arms deal, where North Korea could exchange munitions for Russian technological advancements, enhancing its nuclear military capabilities.
Despite denials from Pyongyang and Moscow, the NIS believes North Korea is operating its munitions factories at full capacity and enlisting residents to boost production, fulfilling Russian ammunition demands. Indications also point to North Korean weapons experts advising Russian officials on using these munitions since October.
The NIS, however, has not publicly confirmed Yoo’s statements, and its credibility on North Korean matters has been mixed due to Pyongyang’s tight information control.
South Korea fears that this arms exchange might lead to North Korea acquiring advanced Russian technologies, potentially heightening the threat from Kim’s nuclear and missile programs. The NIS speculates that Russian aid might focus on conventional military enhancements, such as upgrading North Korea’s old fighter aircraft.
Another aspect of this partnership is North Korea’s ambition to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite, with possible Russian technological support. Despite recent launch failures and a missed October launch, the NIS anticipates an imminent successful attempt, aligning with Kim’s strategy to use space-based reconnaissance for monitoring US and South Korean military activities, thereby intensifying his missile threat.
This development contravenes resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council prohibiting satellite launches by North Korean, that are being viewed as disguised ballistic missile technology tests. The United States, South Korea, and Japan have jointly condemned North Korea’s alleged arms supplies to Russia, highlighting the increased human cost of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. This joint statement followed denials from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and White House accusations, supported by images, of North Korean military equipment shipments to Russia.