North Korea denies US claims it sent artillery shells to Russia

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea denied U.S. allegations that it was shipping artillery shells and ammunition to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, and on Tuesday accused states United to lie.

The denial follows dozens of weapons tests by North Korea, including short-range missiles that are likely nuclear-capable and an intercontinental ballistic missile that could target the United States mainland. Pyongyang said it was testing missiles and artillery so it could “mercilessly” strike key South Korean and US targets if it wished.

North Korea has moved closer to traditional ally Russia in recent years 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 militarized countries in the world, of providing Soviet-era munitions such as artillery shells, to replenish depleted Russian stockpiles 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 two and a half years. Kim is an avid rider, and state media often photographed him galloping down snowy mountain trails astride a white charger. Horses, Orlov trotters, are prized in Russia.

Spokespersons for Russian Far Eastern Railways told the state news agency on Nov. 2 that the first train was heading to North Korea with all 30 horsepower and said the next train was to carry drugs.

Experts say North Korea could 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 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 supplying a “significant number” of munitions shipments to Russia. He said the United States believed North Korea was trying to cover up the transfer route by making it appear that the weapons were being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.

“We view such actions by the United States as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish (North Korea’s) image on the international stage,” an unidentified deputy director at the military foreign affairs office said. North Korean ministry in a statement carried by state media. .

“We make it clear once again that we have never had an ‘arms trade’ with Russia and that we do not plan to do so in the future,” the deputy director said.

In September, US officials confirmed a new declassification of US intelligence that Russia was buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. North Korea later dismissed the report, calling on Washington to stop making “reckless remarks” and to “keep your mouth shut”.

On Nov. 2, Kirby said the United States had “an idea” of which country or countries the North might move arms through, but would not specify. He said the North Korean expeditions “will not change the tide of the war”, citing Western efforts to resupply the Ukrainian army.

Hit by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August purchased Iranian-made drones that U.S. officials said had technical problems. For Russia, experts say North Korea is likely another good option for its ammunition supply, as the North maintains a large stockpile of shells, many of which are copies of Soviet-era ones.

Even as most of Europe and the West have retreated, North Korea has pushed for closer relations with Russia, blaming the United States for the crisis and decrying “hegemonic politics”. of the West as justifying Russian military action in Ukraine to protect itself. In July, North Korea became the only nation outside Russia and Syria to recognize the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.

North Korea’s possible arms supply 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 receive further sanctions for it due to a split in the UN Security Council over America’s confrontations 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 toughen sanctions against North Korea for its series of ballistic missile tests which are banned by several Council resolutions UN security.

Some observers say North Korea has also used Russian aggression in Ukraine as a window to step up weapons testing activities and increase pressure on the United States and South Korea. The North last week tested dozens of missiles in response to large-scale aerial exercises between the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible invasion.

In a separate statement carried by state media on Tuesday, a senior North Korean diplomat criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent condemnation of North Korea’s missile launch barrage, calling it of “spokesman” for the American government.

“The UN secretary-general echoes what the White House and the State Department say as if he were their mouthpiece, which is deplorable,” said Kim Son Gyong, vice-president. Minister of International Organizations at the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kim said Guterres’ “unjust and prejudicial behavior” has contributed to heightened tensions in the region.

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