How can North Korean weapons help Russia?

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North Korea is apparently on the move sell millions of rockets and shells — many of them probably from old stock — to Cold War ally Russia.

US officials say this shows Russia’s desperation over war in Ukraine and that Russia may buy additional military equipment from North Korea. Russia called a US intelligence report on the planned purchase a “fake”.

The ammunition that North Korea is reportedly trying to sell to Moscow is likely a copy of a Soviet-era weapon that fits into a Russian launcher. However, there are still questions about the quality of the supplies and how much they can actually help the Russian military.


What Exactly Does North Korea Supply Russia?

Slapped by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August purchased an Iranian-made drone that US officials said had technical problems. For Russia, North Korea is likely another good option for ammunition supplies.

North Korea “could be the largest source of compatible legacy ammunition outside Russia, including at domestic production facilities,” said Joseph Dempsey, researcher for defense and military analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). There is,” he said.

Both North and South Korea have been divided along the world’s most heavily fortified borders for more than 70 years, with tens of millions of North Korea is likely to sell old ammunition it wants to replace with new for multiple rocket-launching systems and high-performance missiles at its front-line army bases, he said. rice field.

But Bruce Bennett, a senior security expert at California-based Rand Corp., said most of the artillery shells sent to Russia are likely to be ammunition for small arms such as AK-47 rifles and machine guns. said.

“It’s not millions of artillery shells and rockets. It’s more than expected consumption. It could be millions of small arms rounds,” Bennett said.


How Good Are North Korea’s Weapons?

North Korea has an estimated 20,000 artillery pieces, including multiple rocket launchers, according to an IISS assessment, a number Dempsey said is “significantly more than any other country in the world.”

North Korean state media has called the artillery, which can turn enemy positions into a “sea of ​​flame”, “the People’s Army’s first weapon and the most powerful weapon in the world.”

But the old artillery system, whose ammunition was likely supplied to Russia, has a reputation for being inaccurate.

When North Korea shelled South Korea’s frontline island Yeonpyeong in 2010, killing four people, Bennett said only 80 of the 300 to 400 weapons that North Korea should have fired targeted. He said it most likely didn’t hit. Lee’s assessment said about half of the shells fired by North Korea landed in water before reaching the island.

“It’s a miserable artillery performance. Russians may experience the same thing, but it won’t make them very happy,” Bennett said.

Observers have questioned whether North Korean ammunition would help Russia’s operations in Ukraine.

It’s unclear how serious the Russian ammunition shortage is. In July, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia was firing tens of thousands of shells every day and that it could not continue forever.

“Substantial stockpiles likely still exist, but they may increasingly undermine stockpiles reserved for the contingency of a broader future conflict,” Dempsey said. Stated.


North Korean missiles not envisioned

Yang Wook, an analyst at the Asan Policy Research Institute in Seoul, said North Korea was unlikely to provide ballistic missiles to Russia.

And if North Korea decides to supply Russia with missiles, it will also have to send launch platforms, as Russia does not have launchers for North Korean Scuds and other missiles. North Korea has developed a highly maneuverable nuclear cable ballistic missile, likely modeled after Russia’s Iskandar. But Shin Jeong-woo, a military expert at the Seoul-based South Korea Defense and Security Forum, said the two missiles differ in size.

There are many items that North Korea could offer Russia. Given that the two countries have shared weapons systems since the Soviet era. But the type of ammunition that North Korea would provide Russia “is likely to be old and nearing expiration at some point,” said Moon Sung, an analyst at South Korea’s National Institute for Strategic Studies. Mook said.


What can North Korea get?

North Korea will likely get food, fuel, military aircraft parts and other supplies from Russia in exchange for weapons.North Korea finds it difficult to purchase such goods from abroad under UN sanctions imposed on the nuclear program.

Yang said North Korea could seek advanced Russian weapons technology to boost efforts to build more powerful high-tech missiles to target the United States and its allies.

“It would certainly be the worst case scenario,” Yang said.

According to Bennett, North Korea would be happy to compensate with fuel. For more advanced weapons, he said advanced weapons technology could be sought from Russia, which could include those needed for anticipated nuclear tests.

He said it would be difficult for Russia and North Korea to move ammunition across a narrow 15-kilometer (9-mile) border with only one single-track railroad bridge across the river. Bennett said China could help by allowing the use of its own railroads. Other experts say North Korea may also use sea routes.