US officials have warned North Korea it will “pay a price” if it strikes an arms deal with Russia, after saying that negotiations were “advancing” between the two nations.
If Pyongyang provides weapons to Moscow to use in the war against Ukraine, it is “not going to reflect well on North Korea and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a press briefing on Tuesday.
Sullivan did not elaborate on the potential repercussions for North Korea, which is already under United Nations and US sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction program.
“We have continued to convey privately as well as publicly to the North Koreans – and asked allies and partners to do the same – our view that they should abide by their publicly stated commitments that they’re not going to provide these weapons,” Sullivan said.
On Monday, the National Security Council claimed arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are “actively advancing,” after Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang in July in an attempt to convince it to sell artillery ammunition.
The council’s spokesperson Adrienne Watson said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expects “discussions to continue,” including “leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia,” but did not say when or where a potential meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia might take place.
CNN has asked the Russian embassy in Washington for comment. The Kremlin declined to comment on the claim, with a spokesperson saying on Tuesday: “We have nothing to say on the subject.”
The New York Times first reported the potential meeting between Kim and Putin in Russia, saying it is expected to take place this month.
At the press briefing Tuesday, Sullivan also said the discussions between Russia and North Korea are evidence that economic sanctions by the West have succeeded in shrinking Moscow’s defense industrial base.
“We have also imposed specific targeted sanctions to try to disrupt any effort to use North Korea as a conduit or as a source for weapons going to Russia,” he said.
Since the war began, “we have not seen (North Korea) actively supply large amounts of munitions or other military capacity to Russia,’ he said, adding that it’s not clear “what has changed in their calculus.”
Sullivan said it was an “open question about how much material and what the quality of the material is that could be provided.” But, he added, “I think it says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea to seek to bolster its defense capacity, in a war that it expected would be over in a week.”
North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner forces late last year, and the potential deal being discussed would provide Russian troops with many more weapons, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby added that any potential new deals could include “multiple types of munitions” and raw materials from North Korea. Russia has also received drones and artillery from Iran.
The US and its allies are also concerned about the technology North Korea is seeking from Russia in return for weaponry, according to two US officials.
North Korea is seeking technology that could advance its satellite and nuclear-powered submarine capabilities, officials said, which could significantly advance Pyongyang’s capabilities in areas the rogue regime has not fully developed.
Multiple North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile tests in recent months have raised alarm among the US and its allies in South Korea and Japan as the isolated authoritarian nation increases its efforts to develop weapons capable of potentially striking major US cities.