A senior White House official has said North Korea will pay “a price” if it sells arms to Russia over its war in Ukraine, after Washington warned Pyongyang was in talks with Moscow over a possible arms deal.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the United States believes negotiations between North Korea and Russia are “actively moving forward.”
“Providing weapons to Russia to use on the battlefield, to attack grain silos and the heating infrastructure of major cities as we head into winter, to try to conquer territory that belongs to a modern sovereign nation… this is not. “It will go down well with North Korea, and it will pay a price for it in the international community,” Sullivan told the press.
His comments come after another official in US President Joe Biden’s administration said on Monday that Washington expected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kim is likely to head by armored train later this month to Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast not far from North Korea, to meet Putin, US officials and others told the New York Times.
Vladivostok will host the Eastern Economic Forum from September 10 to 13, which was attended by representatives of 68 countries last year.
According to the Times, Putin is seeking artillery shells and anti-tank missiles from North Korea, while Kim, who may even travel to Moscow, is seeking advanced technology for satellites, nuclear-powered submarines, and food aid for his impoverished nation.
The Kremlin has refused to comment on the US claims, stressing that it has “nothing to say” about reports of possible direct talks between the two leaders.
In recent weeks, there have been public signs of a rapprochement between Russia and North Korea.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea and met with Kim in July. Kim and Putin also exchanged letters last month, pledging to strengthen relations between the two countries.
On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel also warned North Korea against supplying weapons to Russia, telling reporters that Moscow’s turn to Pyongyang for weapons demonstrates the effectiveness of the US sanctions imposed by the war in Ukraine.
“Russia has been forced to desperately search the world for weapons it can use in its war in Ukraine because of our sanctions and export controls and the effects they have had,” Patel said.
Asked about the possible consequences that Washington would impose on Pyongyang if weapons were sent to Moscow, Patel did not provide details but said the US would “take appropriate measures as necessary” in coordination with its partners.
Last year, the United States accused North Korea of covertly sending artillery shells to Russia, a charge both Moscow and Pyongyang denied. Washington said that despite its denials, North Korea supplied rockets and infantry missiles to Russia in 2022 for use by the privately controlled Wagner military group.
On Tuesday, Sullivan said the Biden administration will continue pushing to “deter the North Koreans” from supplying weapons to Russia.
“We will continue to call on North Korea to honor its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians,” he said.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a defense and military analyst, said Tuesday that it is “possible” that Putin will meet Kim next week when he travels to Vladivostok, Russia’s far eastern city, for an economic forum.
“Right now, it seems that relations between Moscow and Pyongyang are flourishing,” Felgenhauer said. “Both sides have things to offer, and both are under pressure and sanctions from the West, so they seem like natural allies.”
The United States has been warning its competitors and adversaries — including China — against helping Russia in its military offensive in Ukraine.
Washington has provided Kyiv with billions of dollars in military, humanitarian and budget aid since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.
The Biden administration has also imposed strong sanctions on Moscow to penalize it for the war.
After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital in the first weeks of the invasion, Russia has limited its military objectives to occupying the country’s eastern areas. Ukraine launched a counteroffensive earlier this year but has made only modest gains against Russian forces.
“The Ukrainian armed forces have not achieved their objectives on any front,” Shoigu declared on Tuesday, quoted by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Meanwhile, in recent days, heavy fighting has broken out in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhia in the southeast.
The Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday that Ukrainian troops have advanced beyond some of the anti-tank ditches and dense minefields in Zaporizhia, which appears to mark a breakthrough through Russian defenses.
Ukraine has also stepped up its cross-border attacks inside Russia.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said Tuesday that at least one person had died due to “repeated shelling” by Ukraine.