North Korea sends Russia artillery rounds for satellite advice: S Korea

Pyongyang and Moscow have an ‘arms-for-liftoff deal’, claims South Korea’s spy agency.

Kim Jong Un with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. They are smiling and laughing.
North Korean and Russian officials - including leader Kim Jong Un (left) and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) - have met several times over the past few months [Foreign Ministry/Reuters]

North Korea is supplying munitions to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine in return for satellite technology, South Korea has said.

Pyongyang has supplied Moscow with more than one million artillery shells since early August, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported on Wednesday. In return, Russia is assumed to be providing technology and know-how to North Korea, which is making a third effort to launch a satellite following two failures.

South Korean lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum said that Pyongyang has sent around 10 arms shipments to Russia by air, as well as via naval shipments between a North Korean east coast port and Russian ports, as the United States has previously claimed.

More than one million artillery shells were transported by sea, originating from the port of Najin and reaching the Russian ports of Dunai and Vostochny, according to NIS. From there, they were conveyed by train to Ukraine, near the Toretsk ammunition depot.

It is estimated that these deliveries will keep Russian forces in Ukraine supplied for two months. Meanwhile, the West is struggling to keep pace in supplying Ukraine’s forces with ammunition.

“North Korea is running its munition factories to full capacity to meet demand for military supplies to Russia and even mobilising residents and civilian factories to make ammunition boxes for exports,” Yoo said.

The US, South Korea, and Japan have condemned North Korea’s supply of arms and military equipment to Russia, and Moscow’s supply of technology in the other direction.

The allegations have been denied by both North Korea and the Kremlin.

“Russia, as a responsible member of the world community, strictly adheres to its international obligations towards Pyongyang through the UN Security Council,” Russian Ambassador at Large Oleg Burmistrov said in response to the allegations.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September in eastern Russia, where the leaders toured Russia’s most important satellite launch centre, the Vostochny Cosmodrome. During the meeting, President Putin said Russia would help North Korea build satellites, without providing specifics.

Observers speculated after the meeting that Moscow would help with North Korea’s space programme in return for supplying conventional weapons. Indeed, North Korea appears to have received technical assistance from Russia with its spy satellite system, South Korea’s spy agency claims.

North Korea lacks both financial resources and technical expertise in its satellite programme, and appears to have not yet mastered the technology for atmospheric re-entry of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) warheads, Yoo said.

Now, Pyongyang is in the final stages of a third, likely successful, satellite launch attempt, after two previous failed attempts.

North Korea also hopes to receive Russian fighter jets and other aircraft in the exchange, according to Yoo.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies