According to a newly revised US intelligence assessment, the Russian Ministry of Defense is obtaining millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The fact that Russia is turning to the isolated state of North Korea, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence assessment, demonstrates that "the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions."
US intelligence experts anticipate that the Russians may, in the future, seek to acquire other North Korean military assets. The New York Times was the first to report on the intelligence assessment.
The US official did not specify the number of arms Russia plans to purchase from North Korea.
The discovery follows confirmation by the Biden administration that the Russian military received Iranian-made drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine in August.
The White House reported that Russia had encountered technical difficulties with the Iranian-made drones it purchased in August from Tehran for use in its war with Ukraine.
Russia acquired Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles for several days last month as part of a strategy, according to the Biden administration, to obtain hundreds of Iranian UAVs for use in Ukraine.
North Korea has sought to strengthen ties with Russia. In contrast, Europe and the West have distanced themselves, blaming the United States for the Ukraine issue and condemning the West's "hegemonic policy" as justification for Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.
The North Koreans have expressed interest in deploying construction workers to assist in reconstructing Russian-occupied territory in the country's eastern region.
North Korea's ambassador to Moscow recently met with envoys from two Russia-backed separatist areas in the Donbas region of Ukraine and expressed confidence for cooperation in the "field of labour migration," noting North Korea's loosening of the border controls.
In July, North Korea was the only country outside Russia and Syria to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, further aligning itself with Russia in the Ukraine conflict.
North Korea's provocative action comes as the Biden administration grows increasingly concerned about North Korea's increased pursuit of nuclear weapons.
North Korea has tested over 30 ballistic missiles this year, including its first intercontinental missile flights since 2017. Kim Jong Un strives to improve his nuclear arsenal despite pressure and sanctions from the United States.
Throughout the protracted conflict in Ukraine, the United States has frequently downgraded and disclosed intelligence findings to draw attention to Russian deception campaigns and Moscow's problems in prosecuting the war. The weaker Ukrainian military has fiercely fought against the larger Russian forces.
Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently exchanged letters calling for "comprehensive" and "strategic and tactical" cooperation between the countries. North Korea perceives the resumption of large-scale military drills between the United States and South Korea this year as an invasion rehearsal.
In response to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, Russia and China have advocated lifting United Nations sanctions. Both nations are United Nations Security Council members, which has adopted eleven rounds of sanctions against North Korea since 2006. In May, Russia and China blocked an initiative sponsored by the United States to impose further economic restrictions on North Korea in response to its high-profile missile tests this year.
Some experts believe that Kim could strengthen his resolve to keep his nuclear arsenal if he thinks the Russian strike occurred because Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal.
Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang date back to 1948 when Soviet officials installed young, ambitious nationalist Kim Il Sung as the country's first leader. Kim Il Sung is the late grandfather of Kim Jong Un. Since then, Soviet aid shipments have been essential to keeping North Korea's economy surviving for decades before the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 1990s.
To attract South Korean investment, Moscow has established formal diplomatic relations with Seoul and allowed its Soviet-era military alliance with North Korea to lapse. Putin actively attempted to rebuild Russia's ties with North Korea after being elected in 2000, ostensibly to recover Russia's old spheres of influence and obtain more allies to better deal with the United States.