US State Department: Putin’s Suggestion on North Korean Weapons Is ‘Incredibly Concerning’

‘It would destabilize the Korean Peninsula,’ an official says.
US State Department: Putin’s Suggestion on North Korean Weapons Is ‘Incredibly Concerning’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Amur Oblast of the Far East Region, Russia, on Sept. 13, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)
Jack Phillips
Updated:
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The U.S. State Department said that recent remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting he would supply North Korea with weapons are “incredibly concerning.”

Earlier this week, in a visit to North Korea, Mr. Putin suggested that weapons supplies to the isolated, communist country would be a similar response to the West arming Ukraine in the midst of the two-year-long war with Russia. The Russian leader also warned South Korea against supplying arms to Ukraine.

In comments at a news briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller was asked about the Russian president’s comments about possible arms supplies to Pyongyang. “It’s incredibly concerning,” he said in response.

“It would destabilize the Korean Peninsula, of course, and potentially ... depending on the type of weapons they provide, might violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that Russia itself has supported,” he added.

The spokesman said the United States “will continue to work with our allies in the region” such as “South Korea, Japan, others ... to respond to the threat posed by North Korea.”

Earlier in the week, Russia and North Korea signed an agreement that forces each side to provide immediate military assistance to the other in the event of armed aggression against either one of them. Mr. Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years despite sharing a border with the country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described the agreement as their “strongest ever treaty,” adding that he fully backs Russia’s war with Ukraine. Previously, the Soviet Union and North Korea had an agreement that lasted from the 1960s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Other officials in the United States and NATO said they have concerns with the Putin visit to North Korea, which technically is still at war with the United States and South Korea as no peace treaty was ever signed at the end of the Korean War in the early 1950s.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby called it a cause of concern, but no surprise. He said Russia’s need for such foreign assistance is a sign of desperation.

“We’ve been talking about this and warning about a burgeoning defense relationship between these two countries now for many months through a series of downgraded intelligence that we’ve put out there,” Mr. Kirby said. “Obviously it’s something we’ve taken seriously.”

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the Russian war in Ukraine is being “propped up” materially by Iran, North Korea, and China, warning that those states want to see the military alliance and the United States “fall.” He then argued that more support for Ukraine is needed to push back Russia.

“We are of course also concerned about the potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs,” Mr. Stoltenberg said at a news conference alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a transcript.

And Mr. Blinken echoed the narrative that the Russia–North Korea pact is a sign of “desperation” because Moscow is struggling to “continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine,” he told the news conference.

“And as I’ve mentioned a moment ago, the deep concerns we have about China, not in terms of providing weapons but in providing what Russia needs to keep its defense industrial base going and to produce itself more tanks, more munitions, more missiles—yes, these are the countries of concern,” he added.

Both the United States and Ukraine have alleged that North Korea has already given Russia large quantities of artillery shells and ballistic missiles. Both Russia and North Korea deny those assertions.

Some analysts have said, however, that the Russia–North Korea pact could weaken the Chinese Communist Party’s relationship with either Pyongyang or Moscow.

“Russia may give North Korea advanced military capabilities that could be very destabilizing,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor.

“And number two, this relationship could give North Korea confidence in ways that encourage Kim Jong Un to act out. Maybe it could manifest in North Korea starting nuclear testing again,” he said.

After visiting North Korea, Mr. Putin traveled to Vietnam, to meet with that country’s communist leadership. There, he claimed that NATO is “moving to Asia,” adding that a “bloc system is being put together” and that “we are obliged to respond to this and we will do so,” according to state-run media.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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