April 13, 2024

South Korea says North Korea has sent Russia 6,700 containers carrying more than three million artillery shells since September.

North Korea has sent about 6,700 containers carrying millions of munitions to Russia since September in exchange for food as well as parts and raw materials for weapons manufacturing, according to officials.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik told reporters on Tuesday that the containers might carry more than three million 152mm artillery shells or 500,000 122mm rounds.

“It could possibly be a mix of the two, and you can say that at least several million shells have been sent,” Shin said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The minister did not elaborate on the source of information.

He said hundreds of North Korean munitions factories are running at about 30 percent of their capacity due to a lack of raw materials and electricity, but those producing artillery shells for Russia were operating “at full swing”.

In return for the munitions, Russia provided North Korea with food, raw materials and parts used in weapons manufacturing, he said.

“It seems that food accounts for the largest proportion [of shipments from Russia], which is believed to have stabilised food prices in North Korea, with other necessities also included,” Shin said.

He added that the volume of containers shipped from Russia to North Korea appeared to be approximately 30 percent larger than those shipped from Pyongyang to Moscow in the same period.

Russia and North Korea’s relationship has become closer in recent years.

In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travelled to Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin and held talks on military cooperation and possible Russian help for Pyongyang’s satellite programme.

South Korea and the United States have since accused North Korea and Russia of trading arms in violation of United Nations sanctions, and condemned Pyongyang for supplying weapons to Moscow for use against Ukraine.

Both countries, however, have denied the allegations.

Shin told reporters on Tuesday that Russia probably provided satellite-related technology to North Korea as the country put its first spy-satellite into orbit in November.

The minister said North Korea could fire another satellite as early as next month, and Pyongyang has also asked for assistance with aircraft and ground mobility equipment technology.

“It is unclear how much Russia will give, but the more dependent Russia gets on North Korean artillery shells, the greater the degree of Russian technology transfers will be,” he said, according to Yonhap.

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