North Korea To Sell 'Millions' of Rockets To Russia
Russia Buying Copies from North Korea Out of Desperation
North Korea is said to be planning to sell millions of rockets and artillery shells, many of them likely from its old stock, to its Cold War ally Russia, a practice that has been ongoing during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
While Russia has denied these reports, U.S. officials believe that Russia's potential purchase of military hardware from North Korea indicates its desperation with the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The ammunition that North Korea intends to sell to Moscow are believed to be copies of Soviet-era weapons that are compatible with Russian launchers. However, there are concerns about the quality of these supplies and how much they would actually benefit the Russian military.
Russia has been subject to international sanctions and export controls, which led to its purchase of Iranian-made drones in August. U.S. officials revealed that these drones had technical problems.
With North Korea having a significant stockpile of shells, many of which are replicas of Soviet-era ones, it presents itself as a potential ammunition supplier for Russia.
Joseph Dempsey, a research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), stated that North Korea could be the largest source of compatible legacy artillery ammunition outside of Russia, including domestic production facilities to further supplies.
Lee Illwoo, an expert with the Korea Defense Network, added that both North and South Korea possess tens of millions of artillery shells each. North Korea is expected to sell older shells that it wants to replace with newer ones for its front-line army bases.
Ankit Panda, an expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests that North Korea's increasing reliance on nuclear weapons and guided missiles could render many of its older, unguided artillery shells unnecessary.
However, Bruce Bennett from the Rand Corporation believes that most of the artillery rounds to be sent to Russia would likely be ammunition for small arms such as AK-47 rifles or machine guns.
According to the IISS, North Korea has approximately 20,000 artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers in service, a significantly higher number than any other country in the world.
While North Korea's state media describes its artillery guns as the most powerful army in the world capable of reducing enemy positions to "a sea of flames," its old artillery systems are known for their poor accuracy.
During the 2010 artillery bombardment of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, only a fraction of the weapons North Korea should have fired hit their intended targets, signaling the poor performance of their artillery systems. Observers believe that Russian forces could face similar challenges, dampening their enthusiasm for North Korean ammunition.
The sale of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea to Russia raises questions about the impact it could have on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. With concerns over the quality and effectiveness of the supplies, it remains to be seen whether this potential deal will significantly change the dynamics on the ground.