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(2nd LD) N. Korea plans to send weapons, munitions to Russia in exchange for food: NSC

03:20 March 31, 2023

(ATN: UPDATES with remarks from a Pentagon spokesperson in last 3 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is working to send dozens of kinds of weapons and munitions to Russia to be used in the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine, a National Security Council (NSC) official said Thursday.

John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, said North Korea seeks to secure food supplies in exchange and that the potential arms deal is being arranged through a Slovakian arms dealer, identified as Ashot Mkrtychev.

"We remain concerned that North Korea will provide further support to Russia's military operations against Ukraine," Kirby told a virtual press briefing, noting that North Korea delivered large quantities of munitions to Russia late last year.

"As part of this proposed deal, Russia would receive over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Korea. 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," he added.

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, is seen speaking during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on March 29, 2023 in this captured image. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Department of Treasury said it has imposed sanctions on Mkrtychev for arranging the arms deal between North Korea and Russia.

"Between the end of 2022 and early 2023, Mkrtychev worked with DPRK officials to obtain over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions for Russia in exchange for materials ranging from commercial aircraft, raw materials, and commodities to be sent to the DPRK," the treasury department said in a press release.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

Kirby emphasized that any provision of weapons or munitions to Russia by North Korea would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, which prohibit any shipments of weapons to and from the North.

"Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions. We've taken note of North Korea's recent statements that they will not provide or sell arms to Russia and we are continuing to monitor this closely," he told the press briefing.

"We are going to continue to identify, expose and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from North Korea or from any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine," he added.

The captured image shows a photo released by the U.S. National Security Council on Jan. 20, 2023, showing a set of Russian railcars traveling between Russia and North Korea on Nov. 18-Nov. 19, 2022 for a suspected delivery of North Korean military equipment to Russia's private military company, the Wagner Group. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, later said there currently was no indication that additional weapons or munitions have been delivered to Russia.

"We have not at this time, beyond which had been previously announced," he said when asked if North Korea was moving or preparing to move additional weapons to Russia.

"But it is, again, something we continue to keep a close eye on," he told a daily press briefing.



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