Putin sent his Defense Minister to visit Kim Jong-un with one mission: to resupply the Russian arsenal with North Korean weapons

Kim Jong-un and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a parade in Pyongyang in July (KCNA/AP) (朝鮮通信社/)

After a year and a half of fighting in Ukraine, Russia needs to replenish its ammunition supplies facing what could be a long war of attrition. In addition to increasing its own weapons production, Moscow has decided turn to an old ally which has vast arsenals: North Korea.

According to various projections, the isolated and lonely Asian country It has millions of artillery shells and rockets that could give a significant boost to the Russian army.

U.S. officials believe North Korean ruler Kim Jong-unon his visit to Russia in the coming days, could seal an agreement with President Vladimir Putin for the transfer of ammunition. If this happens it would reverse the roles of both countries regarding the Korean War of 1950 to 1953, when the Soviet Union supplied weapons and ammunition to North Korea.

“We know that the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was mainly interested in artillery shells during his recent visit (to North Korea), and most likely that issue will be discussed between Putin and Kim Jong-un,” said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Center for Russia and Eurasia.

Shoigu became the first Russian defense minister to visit North Korea since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The images of Shoigu during a gigantic military parade in July in the capital, Pyongyang, next to Kim and the North Korean military leadership loaded with medals on their uniforms, was a strong sign of Moscow’s dynamic rapprochement with North Korea. Shoigu said there were possibilities for joint military exercises.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when asked about Kim’s visit and the possibility of a deal under which North Korea supplies weapons to Russia.

However, he emphasized that Moscow values ​​its ties with Pyongyang, adding: “North Korea is our neighbor, and we will further develop our relations without looking to the opinions of other countries”.

Kim first visited Russia in 2019 and held talks with Putin that included commitments to closer cooperation but have lacked visible progress.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Thursday, April 25, 2019. US officials expect Kim to visit Russia in the coming days to signal a possible deal on ammunition as Moscow seeks to replenish its military machine by tapping Pyongyang's huge arsenal.  (Yuri Kadobnov/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Kim and Putin during the dictator’s visit to Russia in 2019 (via AP) (Yuri Kadobnov/)

Although the bulk of the North Korean Army’s arsenals are outdated, their enormous volume could provide the Russian armed forces with a possible crucial element in the midst of the longest conflict in Europe since World War II.

Hong Min, an analyst at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification, said: Russia could turn North Korea into a “rear base” because Pyongyang could supply it with large-scale ammunition for its war efforts.

“Russia hopes that North Korea can quickly establish support channels to supply it with war materials such as ammunition, bombs and other suppliesHong said.

The United States said North Korea sold some ammunition to Russia’s private military company, the Wagner Group. Both Russian and North Korean authorities have denied that Pyongyang sent any weapons or ammunition to Russia or that it intends to do so.

U.S. officials say Moscow’s attempt to obtain North Korean weapons reflects the problems of Russia’s military forces. White House security adviser Jake Sullivan said that The quality of North Korean weapons remains a “question.”

“It says a lot that Russia would have to turn to a country like North Korea in its attempt to bolster its defense capabilities in a war it hoped would end within a week,” Sullivan said.

Although Washington has warned Pyongyang not to send weapons to Russia, which would violate a United Nations embargo to any arms supplies to or from North Korea, observers say The United States can do little to prevent it.

They emphasize that Moscow could share advanced nuclear, missile and submarine technology with Pyongyang in exchange for weapons suppliesan action that could embolden Kim and increase major dangers to regional security.

“The United States and its allies have limited policy options to confront this new challenge,” the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in an analysis.

Shoigu toasts with Kim (KCNA/AP)
Shoigu toasts with Kim (KCNA/AP) (Uncredited/)

Although North Korea’s huge arsenals could bolster Russia’s war machine, Moscow has imported drones from another ally, Iranwho have had an important participation in the fight.

Russia has used Shahed explosive drones to attack Ukrainian infrastructure for more than a year. After the initial surprise, Ukrainian air defenses have improved their ability to deal with them, but these cheap and simple drones with a range exceeding 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) continue to inflict significant damage.

According to press reports, Russia bought a license from Iran to manufacture drones and built a factory that produces thousands of them a year.

Iran is expected to initially provide the materials and technology, with the plant gradually shifting to components produced within the country.

(With information from AP)