North Korea denies sending arms to Russia

Pyongyang has no plans to send weapons to Moscow, says a defence official

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during a 2019 meeting in Russia. AP
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North Korea has denied US claims that it has sent weapons to Russia in its war against Ukraine, and said it has no plans to do so.

A defence official told official state media that the US should stop making “reckless remarks” and “keep its mouth shut”.

“We take this opportunity to make clear one thing. 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 a vice director general of the National Defence Ministry’s general equipment bureau.

Reports of sales to Moscow are an attempt to tarnish the country's image, he said.

Earlier this month, US intelligence reports said Russia was in the process of purchasing “millions” of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea to be used in Ukraine. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said it showed Russian President Vladimir Putin's desperation.

“He was buying drones from Iran, now he’s going to buy artillery rounds from North Korea. It’s an indication of how much his defence industrial establishment is suffering as a result of this war and the degree of desperation that he’s reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea for assistance,” Mr Kirby said.

Moscow has denied the claims, dismissing the reports as “fake”.

The statement from Pyongyang comes a day after Moscow announced a partial military mobilisation amid Ukrainian gains in the war. About 300,000 reservists are to be called up for service.

Ukraine severed relations with Pyongyang in July after North Korea recognised two Russian-backed breakaway “people's republics” in eastern Ukraine as independent states — the only nation aside from Russia and Syria to do so. North Korea has also hinted that it would be interested in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in the east of the country.

North Korea has used the war to accelerate its own arms development, testing dozens of weapons including its first long-range missiles since 2017, exploiting a divide in the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have blocked US attempts to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, the country officially declared itself a nuclear weapons state, with parliament passing legislation enshrining the right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

Updated: September 22, 2022, 9:02 AM