With the dozens of weapons tests over the last few months, it wasn’t surprising to learn that North Korea was supplying Russia with artillery. Their economy has been even further in the gutter than usual thanks to COVID, and as a result, their people have been suffering far more than usual. Test firing their missiles, rockets, and other pieces of firepower is a great way to showcase to the Russians what they can do and to test their own abilities.
Somehow, the Kim Jong-un regime believes that anyone would believe that they haven’t been supplying them. Never mind his previous offers to send North Koreans to help rebuild parts of Ukraine the Russians have destroyed and taken over. That kind of offer also tends to come with other aid, and they have been attempting to form a better relationship with the Russians for years. Considering how much Soviet-era equipment they purchased and have stockpiled; it would only make sense for them to work together.
The first rail car was exchanged between Russia and North Korea in the first week of November, after a 2.5-year hiatus due to COVID. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t grain or anything to help his countrymen. Instead, Kim received 30 thoroughbred horses. Given his propensity for trotting around on horses in his propaganda videos, his receipt of Orlov trotters, and their high status in Russia, it shouldn’t be surprising.
While railcar has been open with China since September, this first known new shipment with Russia marked a huge shift in North Korea’s policies and their concerns with COVID.
On November 2nd, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby laid out the claims of weapons being sent to Russia under the guise of them being disguised as going to the Middle East or North Africa. This kind of claim is baffling in the first place because North Korea is not the country most would expect to be selling arms to parts of the globe well known for making and using their arms.
In response, an unnamed vice director with the North Korean ministry’s military foreign affairs office issued a statement. “We regard such moves of the U.S. as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish the image of (North Korea) in the international arena. We once again make clear that we have never had ‘arms dealings’ with Russia and that we have no plan to do so in the future.”
This response is similar to the one received when the US declassified knowledge of previous shipments of rockets and missiles from North Korea to Russia. Even back then the North Koreans made it sound like the US was a propaganda machine, and that the US needed to “keep its mouth shut”. When that news first broke Kirby had also added that North Korean shipments weren’t going to do much for the struggling Russians, especially with the west arming Ukraine.
North Korea is in a unique position right now. With Russia and China both having problems with the US, they will veto any attempts at enforcing UN resolutions that ban the hermit kingdom from selling arms to other countries. By having that duo in their back pocket, the UN will be prevented from doing anything to them, and it will only serve to embolden them.
To many, the North Koreans are using the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a small cover to test, sell, and ship as many arms as possible. With the US and South Korea paying more attention to that situation, the Kim regime has the impression that nobody is looking at him, and they must have attention at all costs. With each test, he also shows the globe what his country is capable of, and encourages other countries to come to him for cheap arms.