Russia to trade food for North Korean weapons to fight war in Ukraine
Russia is sending a delegation to North Korea to offer food in exchange for weapons to support its war in Ukraine, the White House has said.
As part of the proposed deal Russia would receive “over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Pyongyang”, said John Kirby, White House National Security Council spokesman.
He added: “We also understand that Russia is seeking to send a delegation to North Korea and that Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for munitions.”
The US has previously accused North Korea of supplying arms to the Russian military. Last November, it said it had information indicating Pyongyang was covertly sending a significant number of artillery shells to Russia via shipments to countries in the Middle East and Africa.
It later said North Korea had delivered arms to Russia’s private military group Wagner.
Pyongyang has denied the charges. However, it currently faces a deep economic crisis and devastating food shortages that experts say have pushed the reclusive country to the brink of famine.
In January, the US-based 38 North programme, which monitors North Korea, warned in a report that “food availability has likely fallen below the bare minimum with regard to human needs”, concluding that food insecurity was at its worst since the famine of the 1990s.
James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, has previously stated: “The fact that President Putin is turning to North Korea for help is a sign of Russia’s desperation and isolation.”
Earlier on Thursday, in a separate case, the US Treasury blacklisted Slovakian Ashot Myrtychev for organising deals that would enable North Korea to ship weapons to Russia in late 2022 and early 2023.
In return, Pyongyang reportedly received cash, commercial aircraft, commodities and raw materials.
The US has also declassified intelligence to present evidence that Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia last summer.
In one of Washington’s more controversial assertions, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said last month that intelligence suggested China was considering providing arms and ammunition to Moscow, although the US said it has not seen evidence so far that this has already happened.
Beijing, which has presented its own peace plan for the Ukraine war, strongly rejected the US claims.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China “will never accept the US pointing fingers at Sino-Russian relations or even coercing us,” adding that it was “the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield”.