Russia criticised over weapons talks with North Korea

The UK and its allies say Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have secretly pledged to increase co-operation

Russia's Defence Minister Sergey Shiogu with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a visit to Pyongyang in July. Reuters
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Russia’s is “actively advancing” efforts to purchase weapons from North Korea for use in Ukraine, the UK, US, Japan and South Korea are jointly claiming.

In a collective statement, the four allies suggested arms negotiations between the Kremlin and Kim Jong-un’s regime had accelerated and they condemned Moscow’s “shameful” celebration of Pyongyang’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

They highlighted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s recent attendance at a military parade in the secretive country where ballistic missiles prohibited by the UN Security Council were on display.

“We are here today to share new, deeply troubling information: arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are actively advancing,” the joint statement released by the Foreign Office in London read.

“It is shameful that the Russian Federation – a permanent member of the Security Council – participated in a celebration of the DPRK’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons delivery systems.”

Mr Shoigu’s trip in late July was used by the Putin administration to “try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia”, according to US intelligence.

“Since then, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have exchanged letters pledging to increase their bilateral co-operation,” the joint statement continued.

“Our information further indicates that, following Shoigu’s visit, another group of Russian officials travelled to the DPRK for follow-up discussions about potential arms deals between the DPRK and Russia.”

Moscow is working to buy “significant quantities and multiple types of munition from the DPRK to be used against Ukraine”, the allies said.

Deals could include the raw materials that would assist Russia’s defence industrial base – which would represent a serious breach of Security Council resolutions.

North Korea has repeatedly said that it will not sell weapons to Russia.

“We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments Pyongyang has made,” the statement said.

The UK, US, Japan and South Korea accused Russia of “flouting its responsibilities as a member of the Security Council [and] propping up proliferating regimes”.

“We cannot – and we will not – stay silent as we receive more information that Russia continues to turn to rogue regimes to try to obtain weapons and equipment in order to support its brutal war of aggression,” it added.

The US has sanctioned individuals involved in the arms negotiations.

The joint condemnation came as Britain appointed a new defence secretary.

Ben Wallace resigned from the post weeks after admitting defeat in his bid to become Nato secretary general.

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Mr Wallace said he leaves behind an army that is “more modern, better funded and more confident than the organisation I took over in 2019".

He warned the UK “must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out”.

Mr Wallace played a key role in the UK's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Grant Shapps was announced as his replacement.

Russian defence minister in North Korea – in pictures

Updated: August 31, 2023, 3:26 PM