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Ukraine Crisis Escalates with North Korean Missile Support for Russia

Soldiers from the 45th Artillery Brigade of Ukraine are attacking Russian positions in the Donetsk region of Ukraine with Swedish-made Archer howitzers on the 20th (local time)./AFP·Yonhap News

The New York Times (NYT) reported on the 22nd (local time) that Russia deployed artillery shells from North Korea and the latest missiles, making the situation worse for Ukraine, which is awaiting new missile defense support from the United States.

Furthermore, the Korean government and experts believe that North Korea is using the Ukrainian war as a testing ground for its latest missiles, according to the NYT.

North Korea’s Use of Ukraine as a Testing Ground
Concerns of U.S. and European Officials

The NYT reported that U.S. and European officials are worried that these weapons could be significantly used on the southern and eastern battlefields at a time when Ukraine is very vulnerable, as nearly a million shells capable of attacking the Ukrainian army and dozens of the latest missiles that have barely been tested have begun to be deployed.

Russia’s support of North Korean weapons gained momentum after the summit between Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region of Russia on September 13th last year.

In an interview with the NYT, U.S. Department of Defense and NATO officials expressed concern about the possibility of Russia using North Korean missiles to overwhelm the Western missile defense network, saying that the number of North Korean missiles supported so far seems to be less than 50. Still, many more missiles could be transferred in the future.

The NYT reported that Russia already has dozens of North Korean missiles and has fired them at least three times on December 30th last year and January 2nd and 6th this year, and is hoping to secure more missiles. U.S. officials said that it has been proven that North Korean missiles are as accurate as Russian missiles, and they believe that more North Korean missiles were used on the Ukrainian battlefield yesterday.

The Conflict Armament Research (CAR) in London, UK, which records Russian weapons used in the Ukrainian war, analyzed that North Korean missiles are relatively newly designed compared to shells produced decades ago.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is attending a meeting with Ukrainian students in Kyiv, Ukraine, along with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on the 22nd (local time)./EPA·Yonhap News

Concerns About Missile Overwhelming
Analysis of North Korean Missiles

U.S. officials worry that if North Korea strengthens missile supplies, Ukraine may have to fire valuable air defense missiles. If the U.S. Congress does not approve additional military aid, it could be a fatal blow to Ukraine.

Major NATO member countries also worry that the influx of North Korean weapons could be a particular problem in the uncertain situation of support for Ukraine.

According to two high-ranking U.S. officials, Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Commander of NATO’s Allied Forces in Europe, reported to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the 16th that the Ukrainian army is maintaining sufficient air defense networks to survive the winter.

U.S. officials believe that Russia, which had difficulties at the beginning of the war due to Western sanctions, has rebuilt its industrial capacity and stockpiled missiles. If it secures more North Korean missiles, it could overwhelm the Ukrainian air defense network more efficiently.

Korean officials and analysts believe that North Korea is using the Ukrainian war as a testing ground to confirm the effectiveness of new missiles against Western-designed air defense networks in the event of a conflict between South Korea and the United States, according to the NYT.

김정은 푸틴
Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are listening to explanations about the performance of the Soyuz-2 rocket from Yuri Borisov(on the left), President of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and others at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region of Russia on September 13th, 2023 (local time)./EPA·Yonhap News
김정은 탄도미사일
North Korea announced on November 22nd, 2023, that the launch of the ‘Manrikyong-1’, the first military reconnaissance satellite launched the night before, was successful. The picture shows Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, watching the launch./Pyongyang Korean Central News Agency=Yonhap News

North Korean Shell Supply
Russia’s Promises to North Korea

The NYT evaluated that while some of the shells supplied by North Korea are defective, exploding inside Russian cannons, and a significant number falling in places other than the target, the quantity itself is essential on the battlefield.

According to U.S. and other Western analysts, the number of shells fired per day last summer was up to 7,000 for Ukraine and about 5,000 for Russia, but now it has reversed to 2,000 for Ukraine and about 10,000 for Russia.

The NYT explained that while the Russian army is using North Korean shells to attack the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian military appears to have received about 300,000 shells from European countries that promised large-scale resupply.

The newspaper reported that as the additional U.S. support has become a fierce political debate in Congress and remains unsolved, North Korean ammunition support is taking place at a critical time in the Ukrainian war, and the issue of ammunition support for Ukraine will be a major agenda at the Ukraine Support Conference chaired by Secretary Austin on the 23rd.

The NYT analyzed that while North Korea is working to strengthen its relationship with Russia, even though the nature of this new relationship is still unclear, Russia has promised to provide various technologies, including aircraft and advanced technology know-how, in return for North Korea’s ballistic missile support.

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