North Korea has likely supplied Russian President Vladimir Putin with several types of missiles for his ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to South Korean intelligence.
South Korea's military said the hermit nation is suspected of sending an unspecified number of short-range ballistic missiles, anti-tank missiles and portable anti-air missiles to Russia, in addition to rifles, rocket launchers, mortars and shells, The Associated Press reported.
North Korea has been pushing to expand cooperation with Russia and China in the face of protracted security tensions with the United States and pandemic-caused domestic hardships. In an apparent sign of its economic troubles, the country is moving to close some of its overseas diplomatic missions.
Last week, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan strongly condemned North Korea’s alleged supplying of munitions and military equipment to Russia, saying such weapons shipments sharply increased the human toll of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Any weapons trade with North Korea would be a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that Russia, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, previously endorsed.
Russia and North Korea have both disputed the allegations.
In response to the criticism, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said North Korea's adversaries, "have vital geopolitical interests in illegalizing the DPRK-Russia relations, in view of the present international political situation and the crises the U.S., Japan and [South Korea] are facing at home and abroad."
"The bilateral relations are developing on the basis of such recognized principles of international law as national sovereignty, mutual respect, non-interference, equality and mutual benefit under the DPRK-Russia treaty of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation, a legitimate constitution of international law," Choe said Saturday. "This is an intrinsic attribute of the DPRK-Russia relations."
DPRK stands for "Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the official name of North Korea.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefed lawmakers on Wednesday and said that more than a million North Korean artillery shells have been sent to Russia since August on ships and transport planes. The NIS said the deliveries roughly amounted to two months' worth of shells for the Russians, lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum told The Associated Press.
South Korea believes North Korea has been operating its munitions factories at full capacity to meet Russian demand for ammunition, and that the Russians are providing technological assistance to launch a North Korean spy satellite in exchange.
South Korea's military said North Korea also wants nuclear-related technologies, fighter jets or related aircraft equipment and assistance with creating an anti-air defense network from Russia, The Associated Press reported.
Fox News Digital's Timothy H.J. Nerozzi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.