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Kim Jong Un sent 5 million shells to Russia, Putin wants more - Seoul

Kim Jong Un sent 5 million shells to Russia, Putin wants more - Seoul Kim Jong Un sends 5 million shells to Putin (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

North Korea has sent containers to Russia that could hold nearly 5 million artillery shells, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to request even more during his visit to Pyongyang, according to South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won Sik.

He said Seoul detected at least 10,000 transport containers sent from North Korea to Russia, which could contain up to 4.8 million artillery shells similar to those Putin used in the war with Ukraine.

"Putin is expected to seek closer security cooperation with North Korea, especially military supplies such as artillery shells that are necessary to seize a chance to win," Shin said.

He also mentioned that North Korea sent dozens of ballistic missiles to help Putin attack Ukraine.

In exchange for the ammunition, Russia sent North Korea technologies that will assist in its plans to deploy numerous spy satellites, as well as conventional weapons like tanks and aircraft.

Putin is set to visit North Korea as early as next week. This will be the first trip since July 2000.

The ammunition sent by North Korea after the meeting between Putin and Kim in Russia in September likely far exceeds what the US and European Union have sent to Ukraine. This has allowed Kremlin forces to attack Ukraine while it was forced to ration ammunition due to depleted supplies and delays in aid from the US Congress.

While Ukrainian officials have raised alarms about the threat of a Russian breakthrough during months-long delays in American weapon supplies, Kyiv's troops have mostly held the defense as Moscow's invading army outgunned them by nearly 10 to 1. The European Union has sent Ukraine one million artillery shells.

Putin's visit and North Korea's missile programs

Meanwhile, Kim is spending significant funds on his missile program. According to Shin, missile tests last year cost about $1 billion. This figure represents about 4% of North Korea's economy, which South Korea estimates to be around $24.5 billion in 2022.

"North Korea is ignoring its people’s hardships to carry out missile provocations. The money is enough to cover North Korea’s food shortages for a year," Shin said.

Satellite images show that Pyongyang is preparing for Putin's visit, reported the Seoul-based specialized service 38 North. The images show construction in Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang, indicating preparations for a military parade, and aircraft parked at Pyongyang's main airport have been moved to the runway, likely to prepare the facility for Putin's reception.

Commercial satellite images and intelligence data provided by the US government show that Russian cargo ships are regularly traveling between the once-quiet North Korean port of Rajin near the Russian border. Most of them headed to a former Soviet submarine base located about 180 kilometers away.

The White House has provided images showing weapons being transported along the route and delivered by rail for thousands of kilometers to a depot in the Russian city of Tikhoretsk for use against Ukraine.

North Korean shells for Russia

The US State Department previously reported that North Korea had sent Moscow more than 10,000 containers with ammunition or materials related to ammunition since September 2023.

At the same time, Vadym Skibitskyi, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, said that North Korea had transferred 1.5 million artillery shells to Moscow.