US Confirms Russia Used North Korean Missiles in Ukraine


Russia has employed North Korean ballistic missiles in its conflict with Ukraine, as confirmed by a U.S. defense agency.

A report from the Defense Intelligence Agency released on Thursday described how experts matched the missile debris discovered in Kharkiv on Jan. 2, 2024, with publicly available images of known North Korean missiles and concluded they were identical.

The report detailed several aspects of these ballistic missiles that matched: the aft motor section including the bolted-on nozzle and the mounting holes in the tail section; the cable tray connectors and handling ring connectors; and the identical number of bolts used to mount the igniter, which initiates the rocket motor during launch.

This confirmation comes more than a year and a half after the White House first publicly announced that Russia and North Korea were negotiating a deal to supply Russia with millions of rounds of North Korean artillery shells and rockets, predating the missile transfers.

The North Koreans started supplying Russia with ammunition in late August and early September 2023, followed by ballistic missiles in December 2023. U.S. National Security Council coordinator John Kirby revealed on Jan. 4, 2024, that Russia had fired multiple ballistic missiles at Ukrainian targets the week prior.

“We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches,” Kirby stated. “We anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians. These North Korean ballistic missiles are capable of ranges of approximately 900 kilometers — that’s about 550 miles. This is a significant and concerning escalation in the DPRK’s support for Russia.”

According to Nikkei Asia, South Korea’s defense chief announced in late February that North Korea had potentially provided Russia with more than 3 million artillery shells, which the DIA stated could be traced to Russian strikes on population centers resulting in dozens of civilian casualties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during a meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region of Russia on Sept. 13, 2023. Russia has been heavily sanctioned by the West over Ukraine and is turning to other regimes like China and North Korea for support. (Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

In exchange for the artillery and ballistic missiles, Moscow has provided Pyongyang with diplomatic support at the United Nations and allowed the North Koreans to gain insight into how their weapons perform in combat.

Russia has strengthened its military and diplomatic ties with several anti-Western countries, including North Korea and Iran, in an effort to gain advantages in the Ukrainian battlefield. Tehran has supplied Russia with hundreds of one-way attack drones used to target Ukrainian infrastructure.

“In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Russia to enhance its military capabilities. Russia has also been assisting Iran in developing and maintaining its satellite collection and other space-based programs,” Kirby told reporters in November 2023.

“Russia has offered Tehran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics, and air defense. Earlier this year, Iran announced it had finalized a deal to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia,” Kirby added. “Iran is seeking to purchase additional military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars, and combat trainer aircraft.”

The U.S. Treasury Department continues to impose sanctions on the procurement networks of Russia, Iran, and North Korea as the conflict in Ukraine persists. Two weeks ago, the department announced sanctions on two Russian individuals and three Russia-based entities for facilitating weapons transfers between Russia and North Korea.

“Today’s action reflects our commitment to disrupt the DPRK’s deepening military cooperation with Russia,” Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said. “The United States will continue to take action to hold accountable those who facilitate the shipment of weapons and other materiel to support Russia’s war.”

Last week, British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps stated that the U.K. had evidence proving China’s collaboration with Russia on military equipment for use in Ukraine. His statement, which contradicted testimony from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken a day earlier, represents a significant development, if accurate.

Western leaders have been trying to dissuade Beijing from providing military aid to Russia. However, U.S. officials in recent months have criticized China for sending “dual-use” manufacturing equipment at such a scale that “Russia has almost completely reconstituted militarily” despite their losses in Ukraine and Western sanctions.

“We have not seen China provide actual weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a Senate hearing last week. “What we are seeing is China provide overwhelming support to Russia’s defense industrial base … we’ve already sanctioned more than 100 Chinese entities identified as being involved in providing dual-use products and other items on sanctions lists. We will continue to do that.”

Mike Brest
Mike Brest
Defense Reporter. Prior to joining the defense beat, he spent two years covering breaking news, and he worked at the Daily Caller in a similar capacity before that. Mike graduated from American University and is originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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