North Korea sold weapons in November to a Russian mercenary group involved in the invasion of Ukraine, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the United States said Thursday.
Washington has confirmed North Korea delivered “infantry rockets and missiles” to Russia for use by the Wagner Group, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement.
The U.S. government made the allegation a day after the Commerce Department revealed a plan to slap tougher sanctions on the Wagner Group, branding it “one of the most notorious mercenary organizations in the world.”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby criticized North Korea, noting its officials have said publicly that they would not support Russia’s war in Ukraine.
But Washington has confirmed Pyongyang delivered weapons to the Wagner Group, Kirby said in a separate statement.
North Korea has accused Japanese media of spreading “a false report” that Pyongyang transported munitions to Russia by rail, criticizing it as “the most absurd red herring, which is not worth any comment or interpretation,” according to North Korea state media.
The international community should rather “focus on the U.S. criminal acts of bringing bloodshed and destruction to Ukraine by providing it with various kinds of lethal weapons and equipment on a large scale,” North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.
The unidentified spokesman commended Russians as “the bravest people with the will and ability to defend the security and territorial integrity of their country without any others’ military support.”
The amount of materiel delivered to the Wagner Group “will not change battlefield dynamics” in Ukraine, but Washington is concerned that Pyongyang is planning to deliver more military equipment, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. government estimates that the group currently has 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited from Russia’s prisons, according to Kirby.
The U.N. envoy’s statement also said the group’s purchase of North Korean weapons contributes to instability on the Korean Peninsula by giving Pyongyang funds to further develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.
The alleged sale of the weapons surfaced as North Korea has continued to test-fire ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ones, at an unprecedented pace since earlier this year in defiance of Security Council resolutions.
The United States said it will raise North Korea’s supply of weapons to the Wagner Group in Security Council sessions in the future.