On Wednesday, the White House revealed fresh intelligence indicating a correspondence exchange between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This interaction has sparked attention due to Russia’s apparent interest in procuring munitions from North Korea for its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby elaborated on this recent development, a mere few weeks after confirming that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Pyongyang had prompted discussions to amplify the sale of munitions from North Korea to Russia for the Ukrainian conflict.
Kirby emphasized that Russia’s intent is to secure additional artillery shells and essential materials to fortify its defense industry foundation. He noted that while the letters shared between the leaders remained “surface-level,” they signified ongoing progress in Russian-North Korean discussions concerning weapon transactions. These letters followed Shoigu’s visit to North Korea.
In the aftermath of Shoigu’s trip, a separate delegation of Russian officials traveled to Pyongyang for further conversations about potential arms agreements between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Russia, according to Kirby.
Details about the method used by U.S. officials to gather this intelligence were not disclosed by Kirby.
Shortly before the White House divulged this information about the Russia-North Korea weapon talks, South Korea’s military reported that North Korea had conducted a ballistic missile launch into its eastern waters. Notably, this test occurred hours after the United States dispatched at least one long-range bomber to the Korean Peninsula as a display of strength against North Korea.
The Biden administration has consistently argued that Russia’s dependence on North Korea and Iran for weaponry is aiding its conflict with Ukraine. Both North Korea and Iran, facing international isolation due to their nuclear initiatives and human rights records, have contested these U.S. assertions.
In March, the White House indicated that it had obtained intelligence suggesting Russia’s pursuit of a food-for-arms agreement with North Korea, wherein Moscow would provide essential supplies in exchange for munitions from Pyongyang.
Last year, the White House revealed that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military firm, had received a weapons shipment from North Korea to bolster Russian-affiliated forces participating in the Ukrainian conflict.
The United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan jointly called on North Korea to cease arms negotiations with Russia at the United Nations. The four countries stated that any arms deals between Russia and North Korea would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit arms acquisitions from North Korea. This move, they contended, sends the wrong message to potential proliferators, implying that selling arms to Russia could lead to support for nuclear ambitions.
During his administration, former President Donald Trump corresponded with Kim Jong Un in an attempt to persuade the North Korean leader to abandon his nuclear weapons program.
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