According to recently released information, the United States accuses North Korea of secretly supplying artillery materials to Russia for the war with Ukraine, hiding the place of their transportation.
U.S. officials believe North Korea’s clandestine shipments, along with drones and other weapons Russia has acquired from Iran, are further evidence that even Moscow’s conventional artillery arsenals have dwindled in eight months of fighting. US intelligence claims that North Korea is trying to hide the shipments, implying that the munitions are sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.
This latest information comes about two months after US intelligence said Russia was buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield, as reported by CNN and other media at the time.
“In September, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) publicly denied that it intended to supply munitions to Russia,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said in a statement to CNN. “However, our information indicates that the DPRK is secretly supplying a significant number of artillery pieces for the Russian war in Ukraine, while the true destination of the arms shipments is kept silent, giving the impression that they are destined for the countries of the Middle East or North Africa. “.
The authorities did not provide evidence to support the new allegations. The information released also did not include details on the number of weapons in the shipments or how they would be paid for.
“We will continue to monitor the situation to see if these supplies are coming in,” Kirby said, noting that Russia continues to turn to players such as North Korea and Iran to continue its war of aggression in Ukraine “amid supply shortages and restrictions.” effectiveness of international sanctions”.
Efforts are ongoing to resupply Russian artillery.
However, US government officials have publicly cited the alleged agreement as evidence that Russia is running out of weapons to continue the war.
Just two weeks ago, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haynes said that “export controls are forcing Russia to turn to countries like Iran and North Korea for supplies, including UAVs, artillery and missiles.”
Kirby said on Wednesday that support from Iran and North Korea “will not change the course of the war” as the US remains committed to providing ongoing security assistance to Ukraine.
But now the supplies could help Russia support an important part of its war effort: harrowing artillery battles on the front lines.
“This could be a significant development because one of the challenges for Russia was keeping artillery in action,” explained Michael Kofman, director of the Russian Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analysis, stressing that he knows nothing about basic intelligence. The Russian army has probably used up millions of rounds of ammunition by now.”
Russia “made up for a labor shortage with much higher fire production,” Kofman said, a strategy he said was “probably too costly to supply ammunition” and left Russia behind. artillery of Soviet caliber compatible with their systems to endure the war.
In the weeks before this new information became known, some military and intelligence officials began to believe that North Korea was abandoning its arms deal with Russia, several US government sources told CNN.
Some organizations have begun to believe in the victory of the Biden administration’s strategy of selectively disclosing and divulging some sensitive information about Russia’s continuation of the war, believing that when the United States made the agreement public, it drew unwanted attention to a deal that Pyongyang did not make. I want publicity.
But now US officials say that while North Korea denies it, they believe the disloyal regime has moved forward with Moscow’s backing as the war appears to be in its second year.
US officials have publicly said that Russia was forced to turn to North Korea and Iran for arms because it burned its stockpiles in a conflict that lasted many more months than anticipated, and because American and Western exports made the task more difficult. so that Russia can acquire the technological components it needs to rebuild its stocks on its own.
US officials said they would work to identify and counter shipments to Russia from Iran and North Korea, as well as networks that allow such shipments, but did not specify how they intend to do so.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the US military has “intercepted” arms shipments in the past, but did not provide further information on whether arms bans to Russia are being considered this year.
“They are hungry for ammunition, wherever it comes from”
Recent reports that Russia is acquiring artillery munitions from North Korea suggest that the shortage is more serious than just better munitions and precision-guided munitions, which US and Western officials have already realized are a bottleneck in the Russian arsenal. This also applies to basic artillery.
“The Russians, by many estimates, are really running low on some of the elements they need to continue the war against Ukraine,” Price said Tuesday, pointing to export controls and sanctions that have deprived Russia of the funds to produce certain products. weapon.
The actual state of Russia’s stockpile of conventional ammunition is not publicly known, but Russia “burns tens of thousands of munitions a day,” said Adam Mount, director of the Defense System Project at the Federation of American Scientists, an expert on North Korea. . “They’re hungry for ammunition, wherever it comes from.”
During the summer, Russia managed to advance in parts of Ukraine through a punitive artillery campaign. But since then, Western-supplied artillery has fueled a successful counteroffensive by Ukraine, which has reclaimed large swaths of territory previously held by Russia.
North Korea is likely to be able to supply Russia with 122mm or 152mm artillery shells, as well as tube or multiple rocket launchers compatible with Russian systems, said Bruce Klingner, a former Korean CIA analyst who now works for Heritage. Foundation.
But it is not yet clear what impact North Korean artillery shells will have on Russia on the battlefield.
In 2010, North Korea fired 170 122mm rounds at the South Korean island of Yongpyeong. Less than half hit the island, and of those that did, about a quarter did not explode – a high failure rate that “suggests that some DPRK-made artillery ammunition, especially round ones (several rocket launchers), suffer from poor quality during production, or that storage conditions and standards are poor,” says a 2016 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The last time they used these systems, it turned out they were pretty inaccurate,” Mount said. “One would expect these Soviet-era systems to age and therefore begin to break down.”