Recent geopolitical shifts see North Korea sending artillery to Russia while the US supplies seized Iranian ammunition to Ukraine.
North Korea has recently begun shipping artillery to Russia, further bolstering Vladimir Putin’s forces during their ongoing 20-month campaign in Ukraine.
A high-ranking US official told CBS News last week that the specifics of this concerning transfer, whether it signals a long-term supply arrangement or a more limited consignment, remain unclear.
Equally mysterious is what North Korea stands to gain in return for this exchange of weaponry.
The United States, on the other end of the spectrum, has delivered a cache of seized ammunition from Iran to Ukrainian forces, as confirmed by the US Department of Justice. This stockpile encompasses over a million 7.62mm rounds, compatible with both machine guns and rifles.
Kim-Putin Summit: North Korea’s Pledge and the Geopolitical Implications
The origin of North Korea’s backing for Moscow can be traced back to an unusual summit held last month in the Russian capital.
During this historic meeting, Kim Jong Un personally met with Putin, pledging North Korea’s “full and unconditional support” for Russia’s efforts to safeguard its security interests, referencing the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
⚡️CBS: North Korea supplying Russia with weaponry.
North Korea has started to deliver artillery to Russia for its war in Ukraine, CBS News reported on Oct. 5, citing a U.S. official.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) October 6, 2023
While it was widely anticipated that Kim would seek financial and food aid to fortify North Korea’s fragile economy in exchange for his support for Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, the possibility of acquiring advanced weaponry and space technology was also on the table.
A high-ranking South Korean official had indicated before the summit that such a deepening of bilateral ties between Russia and North Korea could potentially pose a threat not only to America’s close allies in Asia but to the world at large, CBS News also reported.
Putin’s post-summit remarks hinted at discussions of military collaboration, and indeed, such cooperation seems to be taking form this week.
Strategic Ammunition Transfer and the Challenges Faced by Ukraine
The Iranian ammunition provided by the US to Ukraine holds significant strategic importance, comprising vital ammo required for frontline battles.
The US Navy seized this cache of bullets in late 2022 from a vessel en route from Iran to Yemen.
The transfer of arms to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, backed by Tehran, violates a 2015 UN Security Council resolution.
Given the current political deadlock in Washington, casting doubt on future US support for Ukraine, Ukraine’s leaders and frontline forces are rapidly depleting their existing supplies, ranging from small arms ammunition to crucial drones, in battles that have largely stagnated.
Surge in Rail Freight Activity Sparks Speculation
Concurrently, there has been a “dramatic” surge in rail freight activity at a North Korean railway station adjacent to Russia.
According to the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Tumangang railway station saw 73 freight railcars on October 5, the highest volume in half a decade. While the contents of these crates remain undisclosed, they are concealed with a tarp, adding to the air of secrecy.
⚡️North Korea increased the number of railway transportation to the russian federation after Kim Jong-In’s meeting with putin. At the North Korean Tumangang railway station, 73 freight cars were recorded – this is a record number.
There are also containers and equipment there.… pic.twitter.com/4ypeZExBGf
— FLASH (@Flash_news_ua) October 8, 2023
Kim’s visit to Russia last month involved a comprehensive tour encompassing the Vostochny Spaceport, military aircraft production sites, and the Russian Pacific Fleet.
As mentioned, while previous discussions between North Korea and Russia have centered around arms exchanging food and energy, Kim’s unusual itinerary suggests potential Russian assistance in satellite and space-launched vehicle technology, including ICBM technology.
North Korea’s Role in Russia’s Ukraine Conflict and Potential Sanctions
Despite the absence of explicit statements, there is widespread belief that North Korea may supply additional munitions to aid Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller affirmed that discussions on military transfers were likely and emphasized the US’s readiness to impose sanctions when necessary.
“When you see what looks to be increased cooperation and probably military transfers – as we’ve said for some time, we have reason to believe they were going to discuss military transfers – that is quite troubling and would potentially be in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions,” Miller explained in last month’s press briefing.
It is crucial to note that UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from both importing and exporting arms. However, experts express concern that Russia’s urgent need for military resources to support its invasion of Ukraine may lead to a deal with Pyongyang.
With Pyongyang reportedly possessing a substantial arsenal of artillery systems and anti-tank missiles, these assets could prove instrumental for Russia’s ongoing campaign in Ukraine, adding yet another layer of complexity to this evolving geopolitical situation.
“We have taken a number of entity – actions already to sanction entities that have brokered arms sales between North Korea and Russia,” Miller added. “and we won’t hesitate to impose additional actions if appropriate.”
The recent developments involving North Korea’s artillery transfer to Russia and the US support for Ukraine with seized Iranian ammunition underscore the complex and evolving dynamics of global geopolitics.
These events not only raise questions about regional stability but also highlight the need for continued international diplomacy and vigilance in a world where desperate measures can have far-reaching consequences. The situation remains fluid, and the world watches with bated breath as these geopolitical enigmas unfold.