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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

US Accuses Russia of Seeking Weapons from North Korea

According to the White House, there is fresh evidence that Russia is seeking weapons from North Korea to support the conflict in Ukraine. This time, the deal reportedly involves providing Pyongyang with essential commodities such as food in exchange for arms.

The accusation suggests that Russia, hampered by sanctions and export controls, is resorting to dealing with “rogue” nations to sustain its war efforts in the region, which have now been ongoing for over a year.

“As part of this proposed deal, Russia would receive over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Pyongyang,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “We also understand that Russia is seeking to send a delegation to North Korea and that Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for munitions.”

Previously, the US administration declassified intelligence to demonstrate that Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia in the summer, while the private Russian military company, Wagner Group, received weapons from North Korea to strengthen its forces in Ukraine.

Despite experts acknowledging that North Korea’s food situation is dire, they have not observed any immediate threat of mass deaths or famine. North Korean state media recently reported that Kim Jong Un aims to improve grain production through stronger state control over agriculture and other measures.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that China may be considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia, the White House has yet to see any evidence of such a delivery.

The Biden administration has been increasingly open about intelligence findings related to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, including the recent revelation of Russia’s efforts to acquire weapons from North Korea.

Officials have explained that this transparency is intended to keep allies and the public informed about Moscow’s intentions, while also deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggression.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also announced new sanctions against a Slovakian individual, Ashot Mkrtychev, for allegedly trying to facilitate arms deals between Russia and North Korea. However, officials clarified that they do not have evidence linking Mkrtychev to the earlier transfer of weapons to the Wagner Group, whose mercenaries have been involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen revealed that Ashot Mkrtychev had worked with North Korean officials to obtain over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions for Russia between late 2022 and early 2023.

In exchange, commercial aircraft, raw materials, and commodities were to be sent to North Korea. The move by Putin to acquire weapons from North Korea is believed to be due to multilateral sanctions and export controls that have limited Russia’s options.

North Korea, which is isolated on the global stage, has been seeking to improve its relations with Russia. However, any arms deal with Russia would violate U.N. resolutions prohibiting North Korea from exporting or importing weapons from other countries.

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