A couple of weeks later, North Korea is angrily denying widely disseminated U.S. intelligence findings that it has agreed to sell large amounts of arms and munitions to Russia in support of President Vladimir Putin’s troubled invasion of Ukraine.
Citing declassified intelligence findings, the White House and State Department early this month said Pyongyang had agreed to sell millions of artillery shells and short-range rockets to the Russian military. U.S. officials at the time admitted it was not clear if the shipments from the “potential purchase” had been carried out or whether the munitions were earmarked for the fight in Ukraine.
Even so, the news was widely taken as a sign of the Kremlin’s increasing desperation to sustain its seven-month military invasion of
Ukraine in the face of global sanctions and unexpected losses on the battlefield.
But an unnamed North Korean defense official told the country’s state-controlled media outlet that the reports were false and there were never any plans to sell military assets to Russia.
“We strongly condemn and sternly warn the U.S. over spreading such anti-[North Korean] rhetoric,” the official told the KCNA news service. “We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them.”
In the KCNA statement, the North Korean defense official accused U.S. officials of “reckless remarks” and said Washington “should keep its mouth shut.”
U.S. intelligence reports suggested Russia turned to North Korea because its stockpile includes a large number of Soviet-era munitions that could be readily used by Russian forces.
North Korea is one of the few states that have strongly backed Russia in the clash with Ukraine, recognizing the breakaway pro-Russian separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine in July and suggesting last month it was willing to send North Korean workers to help with reconstruction projects in Ukrainian territory now under Russian military control.