In recent times, satellite images have revealed a significant increase in rail activity along the border shared by North Korea and Russia. This surge in rail movement has raised questions and concerns about North Korea’s involvement in delivering munitions to Russia. The implications of this support for Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war are significant, with various geopolitical and military aspects coming into play.
The information comes from Beyond Parallel, a website run by the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, based in Washington. According to their report, the Tumangang railway facility near the North Korea-Russia border displayed an “unprecedented” presence of freight cars on October 11. The count reached an astonishing 73 wagons, accompanied by numerous containers and transportation equipment. This level of rail activity was far beyond anything observed at the facility in the last five years, including a comparison with the pre-COVID-19 era.
North Korea’s Support for Russia
The evidence of increased rail activity coincides with media reports that surfaced the same day, indicating North Korean artillery shipments to Russia. According to a US official cited by CBS News, North Korea has begun transferring artillery to Russia, signaling its intent to reinforce Russian forces involved in the ongoing Ukraine invasion.
North Korea’s support for Russia is believed to be a result of a September summit in Moscow where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the details of the meeting were not disclosed, the Kremlin confirmed that gifts were exchanged, and Kim expressed North Korea’s unwavering support for Russia’s security interests, likely referencing the Ukraine conflict.
However, the nature of this arms transfer remains uncertain. It is unclear whether it represents establishing a sustained supply agreement or a more limited shipment of weapons. Concrete details about what North Korea might receive in return for supplying these weapons have not been revealed.
Implications for the Ukraine War
The transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia has raised alarm among the United States and its allies. There are growing concerns that North Korea could access Russian technology, potentially enabling the development of nuclear-powered submarines, advanced rockets, and satellites. This collaboration goes beyond conventional weapons and could significantly enhance North Korea’s military capabilities.
While the report does not specify whether North Korea is transferring artillery shells or actual artillery pieces, experts believe the primary focus of the deal between Moscow and Pyongyang will be rocket artillery.
How Crucial is North Korea’s Support for Russia in the Ukraine War?
As the war in Ukraine continues into its 20th month, Russia faces an urgent need to resupply ammunition for what seems to be a protracted war of attrition. Moscow is not only intensifying its domestic weapons production efforts but also turning to North Korea, which is believed to possess a significant arsenal of artillery shells and rockets that match Soviet-era specifications.
North Korea has a history of stockpiling and manufacturing such ammunition, but the exact size and rate of degradation of these stockpiles remain uncertain. The scale of current production is also not well-documented. Nevertheless, these arsenals could play a pivotal role in replenishing depleted Russian stockpiles.
In a conversation with EurAsian Times, Patricia Marins, a keen observer of the Russian defense industry, highlighted the importance of reaching meaningful agreements with North Korea and Iran to maintain Russia’s artillery power. In the current phase of the war, Russia can deploy a maximum of 10,000-15,000 artillery shells daily, making artillery power indispensable.
Marins pointed out a major challenge, stating that despite Russia’s annual production of 3 to 4 million artillery shells, the country faces limitations in its artillery firepower, including the number of projectiles and factors like guns and artillery range. North Korea’s aid, therefore, represents a potential solution to this problem.
The implications of North Korea’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war are substantial. While the exact nature of the arms transfer remains uncertain, it has raised concerns about the potential advancement of North Korea’s military capabilities and its access to advanced technology. This collaboration could have far-reaching consequences for the ongoing conflict and international relations.