North Korea covertly supplying 152mm howitzers shells to Russia, US claims

The United States believes North Korea is giving the impression that the ammunition is being transported to nations in the Middle East or North Africa. So far, the information from the front does not indicate the use of North Korean artillery shells.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The United States of America has accused North Korea of covertly providing Russia with a significant quantity of artillery shells for use in the conflict in Ukraine. The United States believes North Korea is doing this while giving the impression that the ammunition is being transported to nations in the Middle East or North Africa. John Kirby, who serves as the spokesman for the National Security Council of the White House, repeated the accusation to CNN yesterday.

The United Nations has placed an embargo on arms trade with North Korea. Russia has also voted in favour of imposing these sanctions, which include a ban on any trade in weapons and dual-use systems between the DPRK and UN countries. 

The authorities in the United States are under the impression that the clandestine shipments from North Korea, in addition to the combat drones and other weapons that Russia has purchased from Iran, are additional evidence that Moscow’s conventional artillery arsenals have diminished during the past eight months.

In September, North Korea delivered a public denial of its intention to supply Russia with weaponry, as stated by Kirby’s previous claims. However, the information indicates that North Korea is covertly providing a significant number of artillery shells to the Russian war in Ukraine while hiding the true destination of the weapons and attempting to make it look as if they are being sent to destinations in the North Africa or Middle East, Kirby said.

Russia is rumoured to have begun purchasing weapons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran due to the fact that both nations are also subject to sanctions and have been “cut off from international trade.” As a result, both countries “will not lose much” by conducting business with Russia.

It is difficult to conceal the presence of a significant quantity of ammunition that was manufactured in North Korea near the front. As a result, there will be evidence that such deliveries are taking place as soon as North Korean shells and missiles begin to detonate at the locations of the Ukrainian military, assuming that such deliveries actually occur or are planned. So far, the information from the front does not indicate the use of North Korean artillery shells.

Commonality with Russian artillery

The North Korean artillery force is often considered to be among the most formidable in the world. Pyongyang’s strategy of deterrence was primarily based on the fact that Seoul, the South Korean capital and the largest city in that country, is located very close to the border with North Korea, within the zone of fire of large-calibre North Korean artillery. This was the case before Pyongyang acquired nuclear weapons.

The military plans drawn up by Pyongyang intended for major artillery attacks to be launched against various areas in and around Seoul. The potential for a salvo attack on a heavily populated city not only functioned as a deterrent, keeping the South and its allies from beginning such a war, but it might also become a reality in the event that the North initiated a hypothetical second Korean war. In any case, this tactic is predicated on the idea that North Korea possesses a significant arsenal of munitions; in the absence of such a resource, such operational plans are devoid of any rationale.

North Korean Artillery uses 152mm howitzers shells
North Korean Artillery uses 152mm howitzers shells

It is also significant that the majority of the North Korean military’s ammunition is compatible with Russian military hardware. At an earlier point in its history, the North Korean army was nearly wholly reliant on Soviet weaponry for its arsenal. Subsequently, they started producing their own systems there, but they were mainly developing Soviet models utilising the standards established in the USSR, including artillery calibres. In other words, they were using Soviet models to construct their own. As a direct consequence of this, a sizable amount of North Korean ammunition is compatible with the artillery used by Russia.

There are a large number of these shells available in North Korea, and they are an exact match for the shells that the Russian Armed Forces require at this time. 

North Korea manufactures 152mm artillery shells and Katyusha missiles. During World War II, the Soviet Union was the first country to construct and deploy a form of rocket artillery known as the Katyusha. These multiple rocket launchers deliver explosives to a target area more intensively than conventional artillery; nevertheless, they have a lower accuracy rate and need more time to reload than conventional artillery does.

North Korea has diplomatic relations with DPR and LPR

Following the beginning of the Russian campaign in Ukraine, there was a significant move toward reconciliation between Moscow and Pyongyang. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has acknowledged both the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), and it is currently in negotiations to establish external commercial connections with the Donbas. This would allow North Korea to circumvent the UN ban for supplying weapons to the Russian – Ukrainian front.


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