SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has denied U.S. claims that it is shipping artillery shells and ammunition to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, and on Tuesday accused the United States of Minds.
The denial follows dozens of weapons tests by North Korea, including short-range missiles that are likely to be nuclear capable and an intercontinental ballistic missile that could target the US mainland. Pyongyang said it was testing missiles and artillery so it could “mercilessly” hit key South Korean and US targets if it chose to.
In recent years, North Korea has been welcoming Russia’s traditional ally, and has even hinted at sending workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine. The United States has accused North Korea, one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, of supplying Soviet-era munitions such as artillery shells to replenish Russian stockpiles that have been cleared in Ukraine.
Last week, Russia sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a train of 30 thoroughbred horses, opening the border with its neighbor for the first time in 2 1/2 years. Kim is an avid horseman and state media has often pictured him galloping down snowy mountain trails astride a white charger. Horses, Orlov trotters, are popular in Russia.
The spokesmen of the Far Eastern Railway of Russia told the state press agency on November 2 that the first train went to North Korea with 30 horses and said that the next train was for bring the medicine.
Experts say North Korea may seek Russian fuel as well as technology transfers and supplies needed to advance its military capabilities as it pursues more sophisticated weapons systems.
In September, North Korea restarted its freight train service with China, its biggest trading partner, ending a five-month hiatus.
Last week, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused North Korea of secretly providing a “significant number” of ammunition shipments to Russia. He said the United States believed North Korea was trying to obscure the transfer route by making it appear the weapons were being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.
“We consider such moves by the United States as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish (North Korea’s) image in the international arena,” said an unidentified deputy director in the Affairs Office. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry in a statement carried by state media. .
“We have again made it clear that we have never had ‘arms deals’ with Russia and that we have no intention of doing so in the future,” said the deputy director.
In September, US officials confirmed a recently declassified US intelligence finding that Russia was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. North Korea later rejected that report, calling on Washington to stop making “reckless remarks” and to “keep its mouth shut.”
On November 2, Kirby said that the United States has “an idea” of which country or countries the North can channel the weapons to, but did not specify. He said the North Korean shipments “will not change the course of the war,” citing Western efforts to resupply the Ukrainian military.
Slapped by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iranian-made drones that US officials said had technical problems. For Russia, experts say that North Korea is probably another good option for its ammunition supply, because the North maintains a significant amount of shells, many of them copies of those from the Soviet era.
Even as most of Europe and the West have turned away, North Korea has pushed to strengthen relations with Russia, blaming the United States for the crisis and denouncing the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justification for military action by Russia in Ukraine to protect it. In July, North Korea became the only nation outside of Russia and Syria to recognize the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
The possible supply of weapons from North Korea to Russia would be a violation of UN resolutions that prohibit the North from trading arms with other countries. But North Korea is unlikely to face fresh sanctions for this because of a split in the UN Security Council over America’s clashes with Russia over its war in Ukraine and its separate strategic competitions with China.
Earlier this year, Russia and China already vetoed a US-led attempt to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its series of ballistic missile tests that are banned by several UN resolutions. UN Security Council.
Some observers say that North Korea has also used the Russian aggression in Ukraine as a window to increase weapons testing activities and put pressure on the United States and South Korea. Last week, the North test-fired dozens of missiles in response to large-scale US-South Korean air drills that Pyongyang sees as a test for a potential invasion.
In a separate statement released Tuesday by state media, a senior North Korean diplomat criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent condemnation of North Korea’s missile bombing, calling it a “mouth ” of the US government.
“The UN secretary general repeats what the White House and the State Department say as if he were their spokesperson, which is deplorable,” said Kim Son Gyong, vice president of international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Korea.
Kim said Guterres’ “unjust and prejudicial behavior” contributed to the worsening of tensions in the region.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Asia-Pacific region at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific