(2nd LD) N. Korea covertly supplying artillery shells to Russia for use in Ukraine: White House
(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks, more information in paras 6-8, 13-20; ADDS photo; CHANGES headline)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is supplying a large number of artillery shells to Russia for use in the latter's ongoing aggression in Ukraine, a White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman said Wednesday.
John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, also said the North is trying to cover up its shipments by disguising their true destination.
"In September, North Korea publicly denied that it intended to provide ammunition to Russia," Kirby said in a virtual press briefing.
"However, our information indicates that the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia's war in Ukraine with a significant number of artillery shells," he added.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Kirby said the North was trying to conceal the true destination of its arms shipments to Russia by funneling them through third countries.
"Our information indicates that they are trying to obscure the method of supply by funneling them through other countries in the Middle East and North Africa," he said.
He said it was not clear whether the North Korean shipments to Russia have been received.
"I have spoken about this in the past that we had indications that the Russians were reaching out to North Korea," he said. "Now we see indications in the information we have that they are in fact supplying. So we will monitor this to see if they are actually received."
The NSC spokesman insisted the North Korean shells will not change the course of the war in Ukraine, but said they will add to Russia's ability to kill more people in the European country.
"We don't believe that they are in such a quantity that they would tangibly change the direction of this war or tangibly change the momentum either in the east or in the south," he said.
"That said, and I don't want to sound flippant here, the provision of any additional weapons and ammunition to Moscow clearly is bad news for the Ukrainian people because it allows the Russians just that much more capability to kill, to murder and to destroy," he added.
Kirby said the U.S. will work to hold North Korea accountable.
"We will obviously consult allies and partners, particularly at the U.N., on additional accountability measures," he said.
The NSC spokesman also condemned North Korea's missile provocation, hours after Pyongyang fired more than 20 missiles, one of which landed in waters south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, for the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
"We, of course, condemn these missile launches and the DPRK's reckless decision to fire a missile below the de facto maritime boundary with the Republic of Korea," he told the press briefing, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Pyongyang has blamed joint military exercises of South Korea and the U.S. for prompting or provoking its recent missile tests.
Kirby rejected the North's claim, insisting that the North's provocative actions are forcing the allies to hold their military drills instead.
"There's an annual exercise ongoing right now, bilateral exercises in South Korea, long scheduled, long planned, in keeping with the normal training regimen that we have established with our South Korean allies," said Kirby.
"And these launches just underscore the need to make sure that we have the appropriate military readiness in and around the region," he added.
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