SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says it has not exported any weapons to Russia during the war in Ukraine and has no plans to do so, said US intelligence reports on arms transfers was an attempt to tarnish North Korea’s image.
In a state media report Thursday, an unnamed North Korean defense official told the United States to stop making “reckless remarks” and to “shut up.” Biden administration officials confirmed to a declassified US intelligence agency earlier this month that Russia was buying weapons from North Korea, including millions of artillery shells and rockets, as Moscow tries to alleviate severe supply shortages in Ukraine exacerbated by US-led export controls and sanctions.
The North Korean statement came just weeks after Moscow described the US intelligence agency as “fake”.
North Korean arms exports to Russia would violate United Nations resolutions that prohibit the country from importing or exporting weapons.
The North Korean official emphasized that Pyongyang has never recognized the “illegal” UN Security Council sanctions against the country “prepared by the United States and its vassal forces.” The official said the export and import of military equipment is a “legal right peculiar to a sovereign state,” according to an English translation of the statement published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“But we take this opportunity to make one thing clear. We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before, and we will not plan to export them,” said the official, who was described as the deputy director general of the National Defense Ministry’s General Equipment Office.
“It is not certain where the rumor spread by the US comes from, but it is aimed at tarnishing the DPRK’s image,” the official said, referring to the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Facing sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iranian-made drones that US officials said had technical problems. Experts say that North Korea, if they want, can become an important source of small arms, artillery and other ammunition for Russia, given the compatibility of their defense systems based on Soviet roots.
North Korea has sought to tighten relations with Russia even as most of Europe and the West have pulled away, blaming the US for the crisis and rejecting the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justifying military action by Russia in Ukraine to protect itself.
The North Korean government even has indicated it is interested by sending construction workers to help rebuild pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. In July, North Korea became the only nation other than Russia and Syria to recognize the independence of the territories, Donetsk and Luhansk.
North Korea has also used the war as a window to speed up its own weapons development, testing dozens of weapons, including its first long-range missiles since 2017, and exploiting a rift in the UN Security Council where Russia and China have blocked US attempts to tighten . sanctions against Pyongyang.
The North has characterized its testing activity with repeated threats of nuclear conflict with Seoul and Washington. The latest was a law passed by Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament this month that further entrenched the country’s status as a nuclear power and authorized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons over a wide range of scenarios where its leadership is threatened.
Sung Kim, the Biden administration’s special representative for North Korea, met with his South Korean counterpart Kim Gunn in Seoul on Thursday, where they expressed “serious concern” over the North’s escalating nuclear doctrine outlined in the new law, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
The diplomats reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea in the event of a nuclear war with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear. The allies also maintained their months-old assessment that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017 and discussed “stern” countermeasures to such an action, the ministry said.