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Russia’s turn to North Korea for much-needed ammo a ‘last resort’ in Ukraine conflict: ‘Hitting the dregs’


North Korea’s potential partnership with Russia, which would see the country supply Moscow with much-needed munitions, is likely to make little impact in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, experts told Fox News Digital.

“If you’re going to North Korea for help, you’re kind of hitting the dregs,” said Seth Jones, director of both the International Security Program and Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “North Korea is a desperate country. It’s been sidelined by pretty much everybody, it’s got massive famine in the country – if you’re going to the North Koreans for help, this is a last resort.”

Moscow’s war with Ukraine, which is about to enter its 20th month, has consumed a vast amount of munitions and destroyed significant numbers of heavy artillery on both sides, driving both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to find any additional support they can in order to last longer than the other side. 

Putin this month hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss a potential arms deal, though neither leader signed any formal agreement by the end of the six-day trip. North Korea would reportedly receive advanced weapons technology and food supplies from Russia in exchange for more ammo and artillery.

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Russian state media reported that the only weapons that changed hands were gifts from a regional Russian governor who gifted Kim with five “kamikaze” drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on Sept. 12, 2023. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon)

The move to secure further munitions is a vital one but not one that experts seem to think will yield the benefits Putin requires. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said he was “skeptical” that any contribution North Korea could make, including artillery rounds, would prove “decisive” or make any difference.

“Neither Russia nor Ukraine has access to sufficient weapons to continue at the pace that they’re going right now,” Jones said.

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“There are two options: One is you produce those kinds of materials yourselves – you increase production – and neither of those countries have the ability to do it,” he continued. “The second is then you resort to aid from allies and partners.”

Putin and Kim at space facility

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspect the Russian spaceport Vostochny Cosmodrome. (Kremlin Press Office / Handout / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / File)

Zelenskyy did his part by securing a deal with President Biden for $325 million in aid, including anti-tank weapons, air defense equipment, artillery rounds and other equipment. Biden reiterated the U.S. commitment to “help Ukraine build a force capable of ensuring Ukraine’s long-term security, capable of deterring future threats against sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom.”

Putin has turned to a number of nations across Asia and Asia Minor, drawing support mainly from China and Iran, the latter of which has contributed drones and training for Russian troops.

North Korea military parade 75th

This photo provided on Sept. 9, 2023, by the North Korean government shows tractors towing weapons during the paramilitary parade ceremony as part of North Korea’s 75th founding anniversary in Pyongyang on Sept. 8, 2023. (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service via AP)

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Ukraine this month claimed to have intercepted phone calls from Russian frontline troops who complained about the heavy losses and lack of critical supplies since July – 17 calls, according to Reuters.

Zelenskyy and Biden

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, at the White House on Sept. 21, 2023. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Sung-Yoon Lee, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News Digital that while the partnership might not provide significant and immediate results for Russia in Ukraine, it would “strengthen both nations’ long-term standing vis-à-vis the U.S.”

“North Korea’s increased arms [and] ammo supply to Russia in the wake of the Putin-Kim Jong Un summit earlier this month has both a practical and psychological effect,” Lee said.

“While the impact on the battleground may be modest, Putin may feel secure in the knowledge that he has a steady and virtually inexhaustible source of arms and ammunition,” he continued.

Ukraine war one year on

A Ukrainian rocket launcher fires at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo / Linkos / File)

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“For the U.S. and its allies, the specter of close, long-term military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang is a most unwelcome development,” Lee explained.

“Russia may in time help North Korea with advanced satellite and nuclear-powered submarine technology, which will embolden Kim to become more daring and provocative toward South Korea, U.S. forces in Korea, and Japan,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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