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North Korea Says It Isn’t Supplying Russia With Weapons

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SEOUL—North Korea denied that it is supplying Russia with weapons or ammunition, a rebuttal of an earlier U.S. claim that the Kim Jong Un regime could provide military supplies to Moscow.

There have never been any exports of military weapons to Russia, nor are there plans to do so, said an unnamed North Korean vice director of national defense who oversees military equipment. But the Kim regime asserted its “lawful right” to export and import military equipment, along with developing, producing and possessing such weaponry, the unnamed official said in a state-media statement published Thursday local time.

“Nobody is entitled to criticize it,” the official said.

The North Korean statement was published hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a nationally televised speech, said he would call up 300,000 reservists and hinted he would consider a nuclear strike in the country’s war with Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the U.S. said that Russia could potentially purchase millions of rounds of ammunition from the Kim regime for use on the battlefield. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations later said he hadn’t heard of any purchase and thought the report was false.

North Korea hadn’t commented through official state media until the Thursday statement. It condemned Washington for circulating a rumor that seeks to tarnish the Kim regime’s image. The unnamed national-defense official warned the U.S. to “keep its mouth shut” and “stop making reckless remarks.”

United Nations sanctions bar North Korea from any arm sales. But over the past decade, Pyongyang has maintained a sophisticated network to engage in illicit weapons sales to Syria, Libya, Sudan and other conflict zones around the world, according to U.N. reports.

Given that the two countries operate a cross-border railway, North Korean artillery shipments to Russia could occur with other countries having minimal ability to stop them.

But any Pyongyang offerings to Moscow would have limits, as weapon experts have said North Korea’s available stockpile is old, with more sophisticated offerings not yet in mass production. North Korea possesses tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets that date to the 1950s, though their accuracy and reliability are questioned.

North Korea has drawn closer to Russia this year by publicly defending Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The Kim regime became one of the first countries to officially recognize as independent republics the Russia-occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Write to Timothy W. Martin at timothy.martin@wsj.com

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Appeared in the September 22, 2022, print edition as ‘North Korea Denies Arming Russia.’

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