Home Latest News EXPLAINER: What help are North Korean weapons to Russia?

EXPLAINER: What help are North Korean weapons to Russia?



SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea is seemingly transferring to sell millions of rockets and artillery shells — a lot of them possible from its previous inventory — to its Chilly Conflict ally Russia.

Russia has referred to as a U.S. intelligence report on the buying plan “faux.” However U.S. officers say it reveals Russia’s desperation with the warfare in Ukraine and that Moscow might purchase extra army {hardware} from North Korea.

The ammunitions North Korea reportedly intends to promote to Moscow are possible copies of Soviet-era weapons that may match Russian launchers. However there are nonetheless questions over the standard of the provides and the way a lot they may truly assist the Russian army.


Slapped by worldwide sanctions and export controls, Russia in August purchased Iranian-made drones that U.S. officers mentioned had technical issues. For Russia, North Korea is probably going one other good possibility for its ammunitions provide, as a result of the North retains a big stockpile of shells, a lot of them copies of Soviet-era ones.

North Korea “could signify the one largest supply of appropriate legacy artillery ammunition outdoors of Russia, together with home manufacturing amenities to additional provides,” mentioned Joseph Dempsey, analysis affiliate for protection and army evaluation on the Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research (IISS).

Lee Illwoo, an professional with the Korea Protection Community in South Korea, mentioned each North and South Korea — break up alongside the world’s most closely fortified border for greater than 70 years — maintain tens of thousands and thousands of artillery shells every. North Korea will possible promote older shells that it desires to switch with newer ones for a number of rocket launch methods or subtle missiles in its front-line military bases, he mentioned.

However Bruce Bennett, a senior safety professional on the California-based Rand Company, mentioned a lot of the artillery rounds to be despatched to Russia are prone to be ammunition for small arms, similar to AK-47 rifles or machine weapons.

“It’s not thousands and thousands of artillery shells and rockets – that’s greater than the possible consumption. It could possibly be thousands and thousands of small arms rounds,” Bennett mentioned.


In response to an IISS evaluation, North Korea has an estimated 20,000 artillery items together with a number of rocket launchers in service, a quantity that Dempsey described as “considerably greater than every other nation on this planet.”

North Korea’s state media have referred to as its artillery weapons “the primary arm of the Individuals’s Military and essentially the most highly effective arm on this planet” that may cut back enemy place into “a sea of flames.”

However its previous artillery methods, whose ammunitions will possible be provided to Russia, have a repute for poor accuracy.

Throughout North Korea’s artillery bombardment of South Korea’s front-line Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 that killed 4 folks, Bennett mentioned that solely 80 of the 300-400 weapons North Korea ought to have fired possible hit their goal. In his evaluation, Lee mentioned about half of the North Korean shells launched ended up falling into waters earlier than reaching the island.

“That’s depressing artillery efficiency. The Russians could expertise the identical factor, which is not going to make them very glad,” Bennett mentioned.

Observers doubt the usefulness of North Korean ammunition for the Russian marketing campaign in Ukraine, which they are saying has depleted the army. There have been photographs of barrel-busted Russian weapons on social media.

It’s unclear how severe Russian scarcity of ammunitions is. In July, a senior U.S. protection official instructed reporters that Russia was launching tens of hundreds artillery rounds every day and couldn’t stick with it endlessly.

“Whereas substantial stockpiles possible nonetheless exist, they might be more and more infringing on these reserved for the contingency of a wider future battle,” Dempsey mentioned.


It’s unlikely for North Korea to offer Russia with ballistic missiles that it views as essential in its army methods towards Washington and Seoul, mentioned Yang Uk, an analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Coverage Research.

And if North Korea decides to provide missiles to Russia, it could must ship their launch platforms as effectively as a result of Russia doesn’t have launchers for the North’s Scuds and different missiles. North Korea has developed a extremely maneuverable, nuclear-cable ballistic missile that was possible modeled on Russia’s Iskander. However the two missiles are of various sizes, in keeping with Shin Jongwoo, a army professional on the Seoul-based Korea Protection and Safety Discussion board,

There can be plenty of objects that North Korea might present to Russia, on condition that the 2 international locations share weapons methods going again to Soviet occasions. However the kind of ammunitions North Korea would offer to Russia “are prone to be previous and someplace near expiring,” mentioned Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at South Korea’s Korea Analysis Institute for Nationwide Technique.


In return for weapons, North Korea will possible need meals, gasoline, warplane parts and different supplies from Russia. The North finds it troublesome to purchase such items from overseas below U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, Shin mentioned.

Yang mentioned it’s attainable that North Korea is in search of superior Russian weapons applied sciences that might increase its efforts to construct extra highly effective, high-tech missiles concentrating on the US and its allies.

“That would definitely be the worst state of affairs,” Yang mentioned.

In response to Bennett, North Korea can be keen to be compensated with gasoline. For its extra superior arms, it might search superior weapons applied sciences from Russia, probably together with these it wants for its anticipated nuclear take a look at, the primary of its variety in 5 years, he mentioned.

He mentioned it could be troublesome for Russia and North Korea to maneuver the ammunitions over their slender 15-kilometer (9-mile) lengthy border, the place there’s just one, single-track rail bridge throughout a river. Bennett mentioned China could assist by permitting using its railways. Different consultants say North Korea and Russia might use a sea route in addition to their cross-border railway.

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