The United States and its allies have verified an arms trade deal between Russia and North Korea that could bolster Moscow’s aggression towards Ukraine, issuing a stern warning that the allies would respond against these “deleterious” actions.
“The United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) strongly condemn the provision of military equipment and munitions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the Russian Federation for use against the government and people of Ukraine,” the joint statement said Thursday, referring to the two Koreas formal names.
“Such weapons deliveries, several of which we now confirm have been completed, will significantly increase the human toll of Russia’s war of aggression,” the statement said, adding that North Korea was seeking military assistance from Russia in return to advance its own military capabilities.
The allies “stand together, resolute in our opposition to arms transfers and related military cooperation between the DPRK and Russia and the deleterious effect such actions have on global security and nonproliferation,” according to the statement.
The statement came as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met at the symbol of Russian space prowess in Russia’s Far East last month, where they vowed to boost their comprehensive cooperation, spanning from the economy to military.
Authorities of both the U.S. and South Korea have been warning publicly that Russia’s weapons technology transfer in exchange for Pyongyang’s conventional ammunition was at the heart of the cooperation.
Both Kim and Putin are yet to publicly comment on any ammunition deal, but the Kremlin said last month that it would cooperate with North Korea in “sensitive areas that can’t be disclosed.”
Radio Free Asia cited analysis by a private U.S. research organization the Institute for the Study of War as saying that the North could have already provided up to 500,000 pieces of ammunition to Russia, which could be used in its invasion against Ukraine. The joint statement by the allies confirms that there has been illegal trading between the two countries.
The allies on Thursday also warned both Pyongyang and Moscow that such an action is highly illegal. “We emphasize that arms transfers to or from the DPRK – as well as the transfer to the DPRK of certain items and technical cooperation related to the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missile, or conventional weapons programs, – would violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the statement said.
“Russia itself voted for the U.N. Security Council resolutions that contain these restrictions,” it added.
Russia and North Korea have recently beefed up their efforts to establish a “united front” against the U.S. and its regional partners.
At the summit between Kim and Putin last month, both leaders committed to establishing an “anti-imperialist united front.” Pyongyang has consistently labeled the U.S. and its allies as “imperialists.”
North Korea’s recent foreign policy maneuvers also suggest a broader strategy in motion. This includes Pyongyang’s alleged support for Hamas during its conflict with U.S.-ally Israel, and strengthening relations with Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These actions indicate Pyongyang’s intent to form a cohesive stance against Washington.
Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.