The White House warned on Tuesday that North Korea would “pay a price” if it supplies Russia with weaponry for its war in Ukraine, with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin expected to hold talks on the issue.
Sanctions-hit Russia is reportedly eager to secure more military supplies from its ally to bolster its forces as Kyiv pushes a highly scrutinised counteroffensive to take back its territory.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Pyongyang and Moscow were eyeing “leader level discussions, perhaps even in person” on Russia’s arms needs.
Sullivan said Russia could use weapons from North Korea to attack food supplies and heating infrastructure heading into winter to “try to conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation.”
“This is not going to reflect well on North Korea and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” he added.
Sullivan added that it “says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea.”
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu travelled to North Korea in July seeking to acquire additional munitions for the war, the White House said.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday it was unable to confirm a summit between Putin and Kim. “We have nothing to say on this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Shoigu said on Monday that Russia was considering joint military drills with North Korea. “Why not? They are our neighbours,” he was quoted as saying by the TASS state news agency.
The United States warned last week that Russia was already in secret talks with the North to acquire a range of munitions and supplies for Moscow’s war effort.
Kim is likely to head by armoured train later this month to Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast not far from North Korea, to meet Putin, US and other officials told The New York Times newspaper.
Vladivostok is hosting the Eastern Economic Forum from September 10-13, which was attended by representatives from 68 countries last year.
According to the Times, Putin is seeking artillery shells and anti-tank missiles from North Korea, while Kim, who could even travel to Moscow, is reportedly in search of advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food aid for his impoverished nation.
An official at Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said various developments indicated the growing possibility of an arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow.
“Any form of cooperation between North Korea and neighbouring countries must be conducted in a way that does not undermine international norms and peace,” he told reporters.