South Korea says North Korean factories making arms for Russia are ‘operating at full capacity’

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — North Korea’s munitions factories are “working at full capacity” to produce weapons and projectiles for Russia, according to South Korea’s defense minister, as Moscow’s devastating war in Ukraine enters its third year.

South Korea’s latest estimate provides new clues about the important but highly secret role that North Korea is playing in helping Moscow restart its war supplies at a time when Ukraine is turning to Ukraine for vital military supplies. Its requirement is being blocked primarily by Republican lawmakers in Washington.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said on Monday that weapons and military equipment, including millions of artillery shells, are being delivered to Russia in exchange for shipments of food and other necessities.

According to Shin’s ministry, Pyongyang has sent about 6,700 containers to Russia since August, which can hold more than 3 million 152 mm artillery shells or more than 500,000 122 mm multiple rocket launcher shells.

North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a munitions factory in an undisclosed location on January 10, 2024. (Credit: KCNA/Reuters)

“While North Korean arms factories (for non-Russian exports) are operating at 30% capacity due to a shortage of raw materials and electricity, they are producing weapons and artillery shells for Russia,” Shin told a meeting with reporters. The factories are working at full capacity.”

In turn, the majority of food supplies come in containers from Russia to North Korea, and according to the Defense Ministry, the situation with food supplies in the isolated Asian nation appears to be “stable.”

In a fact sheet released last Friday, the US State Department said North Korea has delivered more than 10,000 containers of ammunition or related materials to Russia since September.

CNN has contacted South Korea’s Defense Ministry for comment on the US estimate, but has not yet received a response.

The deliveries come at a critical time in Russia’s war against Ukraine, in which Moscow’s forces have launched a series of offensives along a nearly 1,000-kilometre front in an effort to break the “stalemate” described by Kiev last year as a former top general. Had executed.

Russia needed new supplies of ammunition and projectiles to maintain its war effort after suffering heavy losses of men and equipment during more than two years of war. Heavy firing continues between the two sides on a daily basis, due to which the supply of ammunition is depleting.

Moscow’s recent advance on Avdiivka, a city on the front line since Russian-backed separatists launched an uprising against Kiev in 2014, comes as Russia seeks to weaken the Ukrainian military despite suffering heavy losses due to its sheer size and ability to send waves. Reflects the ability to. After wave of troops and air superiority on the battlefield.

Kiev faces challenges on several fronts, including grappling with its own manpower limitations and the fact that the West’s ammunition supplies are beginning to run out.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian and Western officials have said that Avdiivka was lost because troops did not have enough ammunition to defend it.

Zelensky told CNN this week that “millions” of people could die in Ukraine if US lawmakers do not approve President Joe Biden’s $60 billion aid request for Kiev.

Zelensky said that without US help, Ukraine would not only struggle to make new gains on the battlefield but would also find it difficult to defend itself this year.

North Korea gave weapons to Russia

The ammunition delivery was recorded from Pyongyang to Moscow just before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is due to meet with his counterpart President Vladimir Putin for a summit in Russia’s Far East in September.

The meeting was a clear sign of closer ties between the two countries, which both face international isolation over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea, which has faced years of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, is short on everything from cash and food to missile technology.

CNN previously reported that intelligence officials in Washington are concerned about the growing ties between North Korea and Russia and the long-term implications of a new level of strategic partnership between the two countries.

Since that summit, North Korea has likely provided “millions of artillery rounds” to Russia over the past year, according to a report released earlier this month by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

In November, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said Pyongyang had exported more than one million projectiles to Russia in 10 separate shipments since the beginning of August to support its war in Ukraine.

US officials previously warned North Korea that it would “pay a price” if it provided Moscow with weapons for use against Ukraine.

The White House confirmed last month that Russia was firing North Korean missiles at Ukrainian cities.

America and its allies are also worried about the technology that North Korea wants from Russia in exchange for weapons.

According to two U.S. officials, Pyongyang is seeking technology that could improve its nuclear-powered satellite and submarine capabilities, which could significantly improve North Korea’s capabilities in areas where rebel rule has not yet fully developed. Is.

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