(ATTN: MODIFIES headline, lead; UPDATES with more details in paras 5, 8-10)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's military said Thursday it has never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia and does not plan to do so, according to its state media, rejecting accusations of arms trade between the two countries amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, a U.S. state department spokesperson said Russia may be in the process of purchasing "millions of rockets and artillery shells" from North Korea, which would violate multiple U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the North.
In response, a top North Korean military official issued a rare press statement.
"We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them," the vice director general of the General Bureau of Equipment at the North's defense ministry said in the English-language statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The KCNA did not mention the name of the official.
"We condemn the U.S. for thoughtlessly circulating the rumor against the DPRK to pursue its base political and military aim," the official added, calling the "rumor" as aimed at "tarnishing" the country's image. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Still, the official defended the North's right to develop arms and export them, and took aim at U.N. Security Council's resolutions against Pyongyang.
"Not only the development, production, possession of military equipment, but also their export and import are the lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state," the official said. "We have never recognized the UNSC unlawful 'sanctions resolution' against the DPRK, which was cooked up by the U.S. and its vassal forces."
Seoul's unification ministry tasked with handling inter-Korean affairs declined to comment formally on the North's claim.
Pyongyang has recently touted its friendly ties with Moscow despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
In July, the North officially recognized two pro-Russian separatist "people's republics" in eastern Ukraine -- Donetsk and Luhansk -- becoming the world's third nation to do so after Russia and Syria.