Russia is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea in its ongoing fight in Ukraine, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Russia's approach to the isolated nation is “indicative of the situation that Russia finds itself in, in terms of logistics and its sustainment capabilities as it relates to Ukraine”, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder told reporters.
“Certainly … we assess that things are not going well on that front for Russia.
“So the fact that they are reaching out to North Korea is a sign that they are having challenges on the sustainment front.”
US intelligence officials believe that the Russians could look to purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future. The intelligence finding was first reported by The New York Times.
The US official did not detail how much weaponry Russia intends to purchase from North Korea.
The finding comes after the administration of US President Joe Biden confirmed that the Russian military in August took delivery of Iranian-manufactured drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.
The White House said last week that Russia has faced technical problems with Iranian-made drones acquired from Tehran in August for use in its war with Ukraine.
Russia picked up Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles over several days last month as part what the Biden administration says is likely to be part of a Russian plan to acquire hundreds of Iranian drones for use in Ukraine.
North Korea has sought to tighten relations with Russia as much of Europe and the West has pulled away, blaming the US for the Ukraine crisis and decrying the West’s “hegemonic policy” as justifying military action to protect itself.
The North Koreans have hinted interest in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in the country’s east.
North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow recently met envoys from two Russia-backed separatist territories in the Donbas region of Ukraine and expressed optimism about co-operation in the “field of labour migration”, citing his country’s easing pandemic border controls.
In July, North Korea became the only nation aside from Russia and Syria to recognise the independence of the territories, Donetsk and Luhansk, further aligning with Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine.
Pyongyang’s arms export to Russia would be a breach of UN resolutions that ban the country from exporting or importing weapons from other countries.
Its possible shipment of labourers to Russian-held territories in Ukraine would also breach a UN resolution that required member states to repatriate all North Korean workers from their soil by 2019.
Reuters contributed to this report