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(3rd LD) N. Korea has offered arms to Russia's military group Wagner: U.S.

All News 17:29 December 23, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korea's response in paras 9-10)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (Yonhap) -- The White House said North Korea has delivered an arms shipment to a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, for use in the Ukraine war.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters Thursday (U.S. time) that North Korea completed an initial shipment of weapons to Russia, including infantry rockets and missiles last month.

"We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which paid for that equipment," he said, expressing concerns that Pyongyang is planning to deliver more military equipment.

North Korea has flatly denied continued allegations that it has had arms transactions with Russia.

The Wagner Group, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, denied the U.S. view as "gossip and speculation," according to foreign media reports.

U.S. officials say Moscow appears to have been increasingly relying on Wagner amid a setback in the protracted war with Ukraine. They say an estimated 50,000 paramilitaries have been deployed by Wagner to support the war in Ukraine.

"In certain instances, Russian military officials are actually subordinate to Wagner's command," Kirby said. "It's pretty apparent to us that Wagner is emerging as a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries."

North Korea's arms exports are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

In response, South Korea's foreign ministry condemned the "arms trade" between North Korea and the firm, saying it harms peace and stability in the international community in direct violation of the resolutions.

An undated file photo of a North Korean missile launch released by the Korean Central News Agency (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

An undated file photo of a North Korean missile launch released by the Korean Central News Agency (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the North's foreign ministry on Friday issued another statement refuting a Japanese media report that the North has transported munitions to Russia by rail.

The Tokyo Shimbun reported the previous day that the North transported artillery shells and other munitions via train linking the North's northeastern border city of Rason with Khasan in neighboring Russia.

"The Japanese media's false report that the DPRK offered munitions to Russia is the most absurd red herring, which is not worth any comment or interpretation," an unnamed spokesperson at the North's foreign ministry said in the English-language statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The North's official condemned the continued U.S. accusation of the North's arms supplies to Russia as "groundless," calling it a story that was "cooked up by some dishonest forces for different purposes."


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