SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Tuesday accused the United States of fabricating a “conspiracy story” about its alleged arms transfer to Russia, arguing it never sent artillery shells to Moscow.

Last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused North Korea of ​​secretly supplying a “significant number” of the ammunition to Russia. He said the United States believes North Korea tried to cover up the transfer route by making it appear that the weapons were being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.

“We view such moves by the US as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish (North Korea’s) image in the international arena,” an unidentified deputy director of the ministry’s Office of Military External Relations said in a statement released by state media.

“We are making it clear once again that we have never had ‘arms deals’ with Russia and have no plans to do so in the future either,” said the Deputy Director.

In September, US officials confirmed a newly downgraded US intelligence finding that Russia was in the process of buying millions of missiles and artillery shells from North Korea. North Korea later denied that report, urging Washington to stop “reckless remarks” and “shut up.”

On November 2, Kirby said the US had “an idea” through which country or countries the North might funnel the weapons, but would not specify. He said the North Korean supplies would “not change the course of the war,” citing Western efforts to supply Ukraine’s military.

Hit by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iran-made drones that US officials said had technical problems. For Russia, experts say North Korea is likely another good option for its ammunition supply, as the North has a sizeable stockpile of shells, many of them copies of Soviet-era shells.

Although most of Europe and the West has withdrawn, North Korea is pushing to strengthen ties with Russia, blaming the US for the crisis and the West’s “hegemonic policies” as justification for Russian military action in Ukraine denounced for his own protection. In July, North Korea became the only nation to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as independent, along with Russia and Syria.

The North Korean government has also indicated that it is interested in sending construction workers to help rebuild pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

A possible arms delivery from North Korea to Russia would be a violation of UN resolutions that prohibit the North from arms trade with other countries. But North Korea is unlikely to receive fresh sanctions for this because of a disagreement in the UN Security Council over America’s confrontations with Russia over its war in Ukraine and its separate strategic competition with China.

Earlier this year, Russia and China already vetoed a US-led attempt to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its series of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by several UN Security Council resolutions.

Some observers say North Korea has also used Russian aggression in Ukraine as a window to ramp up weapons testing activities and increase pressure on the United States and South Korea. Last week, the North fired dozens of missiles in response to large-scale air exercises between the US and South Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible invasion.

In a separate statement released by state media on Tuesday, a senior North Korean diplomat criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent condemnation of the North Korean missile launch, calling him a “mouthpiece” for the US government.

“The UN Secretary-General is repeating what the White House and the State Department are saying as if he were their mouthpiece, which is unfortunate,” said Kim Son Gyong, deputy minister for international organizations at North Korea’s foreign ministry.

Kim said that Guterres’ “unfair and biased behavior” contributed to rising tensions in the region.


Follow AP’s Asia Pacific coverage at North Korea accuses the US of increasing arms sales to Russia