Thursday’s statement, carried by North Korea’s Central News Agency, follows a newly declassified intelligence assessment from Washington that Russia was seeking to buy North Korean weapons for its war in Ukraine. Earlier this month, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said “the Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use in Ukraine.”
“We warn the U.S. to stop making reckless remarks” criticizing Pyongyang and “to keep its mouth shut,” North Korea’s statement said, which was attributed to an official identified only as a vice director of the General Bureau of Equipment.
While denying any arms sales to Russia, the official defended North Korea’s right to make such military deals. “Not only the development, production, possession of military equipment, but also their export and import are the lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state, and nobody is entitled to criticize it.”
Biden administration officials said the weapons transfer plan indicates that sanctions-strapped Russia was forced to approach the regime of Kim Jong Un to help source weaponry for its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow responded to the U.S. intelligence reports by calling them “fake.”
Even amid widespread international condemnation of the war, North Korea has openly supported its Cold War ally Russia. Earlier this year, Kim exchanged messages with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, promising to expand relations to “new strategic heights.” North Korea is one of a handful of countries that officially recognized the independence of the Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. North Korea and Russia share land and maritime borders, which served as trade routes before coronavirus border lockdowns.
Any weapons trade with North Korea would be in violation of U.N. sanctions imposed on the regime to curb its nuclear and missile activities. In defiance of the sanctions, the Kim regime has continued its military pursuits, including an unprecedented flurry of ballistic missile tests this year. Officials in Seoul and Washington said earlier this year that North Korea was preparing for its first nuclear test in five years.
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.
The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.
Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.
Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.
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