Spike in North Korea-Russia train traffic raises concerns of potential arms transfer
Increased train traffic between North Korea and Russia following a summit between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin raises concerns of a potential arms transfer, as observed in high-resolution satellite images.
Train traffic between North Korea and Russia has experienced a significant increase following a recent summit between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, suggesting a "likely" transfer of arms, as reported in a new study by Washington-based analysts Beyond Parallel.
High-resolution satellite images reveal the presence of at least 70 freight cars at North Korea's Tumangang Rail Facility near the border, a number described as "unprecedented," even when compared to pre-Covid levels. The report notes that in the previous five years, no more than 20 cars had been observed in the railyard.
The surge in activity, according to the report, "likely indicates North Korea's supply of arms and munitions to Russia." However, the report also mentions that the tarps covering the shipping containers make it impossible to "conclusively identify" their contents.
This analysis follows a statement by an unnamed US official to CBS News, claiming that North Korea had initiated the transfer of artillery to Russia for potential use in the conflict in Ukraine. The meeting between Putin and Kim last month had raised concerns among Kyiv's allies regarding the possibility of an arms deal.
North Korea, which has been previously accused by the US of supplying shells to Russia's Wagner Group, is a significant producer of conventional weaponry and is known to possess extensive stocks of Soviet-era military equipment, although the condition of these stocks remains unknown.
Russia has been increasing its shell production this year, with forecasts estimating it at 2.5 million, although some analysts have suggested this might not be sufficient for its battlefield requirements. Ukrainian figures indicate that Moscow's forces are firing around 60,000 rounds daily.
While Russia stated that no formal agreements were reached during Kim's visit, Putin expressed that he saw "possibilities" for military cooperation.
Both Russia and North Korea are historically aligned countries and are currently subject to a range of global sanctions. Russia faces sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, while North Korea is under sanctions due to its nuclear weapons testing.
The White House has emphasized that any arms exports from North Korea to Russia would "directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions that Russia itself voted to adopt."