Speculation about a possible North Korean plan to refill Russia’s munition stores drained in its protracted war with Ukraine flared last month, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin and visit key military sites.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. believes Kim is seeking sophisticated Russian weapons technologies in return for the munitions to boost North Korea’s military and nuclear program.
The White House released images that it said show the containers were loaded onto a Russian-flagged ship before being moved via train to southwestern Russia. The containers were shipped between Sept. 7 and Oct. 1 between Najin, North Korea, and Dunay, Russia, according to the White House.
“We condemn the DPRK for providing Russia with this military equipment, which will be used to attack Ukrainian cities and kill Ukrainian civilians and further Russia’s illegitimate war,” Kirby said, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name. “In return for support, we assess that Pyongyang is seeking military assistance from Russia including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment, or other materials and other advanced technologies.”
The U.S. unveiled the intelligence determination as North Korea lashed out Friday at the arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in South Korea, calling it a provocation and again raising the specter of using nuclear weapons to defend itself.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency called the aircraft carrier’s arrival “an undisguised military provocation” that proves a U.S. plan to attack North Korea is being realized. It threatened to respond in line with its escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has accused North Korea of previously providing ammunition, artillery shells and rockets to Russia. North Korea has previously denied providing weaponry to Moscow.