North Korea is covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia, U.S. says

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby
National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby speaks at a White House briefing last month. Kirby on Wednesday accused North Korea of covertly supplying artillery shells to Russia.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

The White House on Wednesday accused North Korea of covertly shipping a “significant number” of artillery shells to Russia in support of its invasion of Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby said the U.S. believes North Korea is “trying to make it appear as though they’re being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.” He declined to provide a specific estimate on the quantity of ammunition being sent to bolster the Russian effort.

Kirby said that North Korea “is covertly supplying” the ammunition to Russia, but that “we’re still monitoring this to determine whether the shipments are actually received.”


Kirby asserted that the North Korean shipments are “not going to change the course of the war,” citing Western efforts to resupply the Ukrainian military.

The launches came hours after North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons to punish the U.S. and South Korea for ongoing joint military drills.

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The White House would not specify the mode of transportation or whether the U.S. or other nations would attempt to interdict the shipments.

The White House revealed the new intelligence nearly two months after first alleging that Russia was purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its ongoing war in Ukraine.

Even as the administration revealed information about the covert North Korean artillery shell shipments, the White House also sought to downplay their significance.

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“We don’t believe that they are in such a quantity that they would change the direction of this war or tangibly change the momentum either in the east or in the south,” where some of the heaviest fighting in Ukraine is taking place, Kirby said.

The finding comes after the Biden administration in August said the Russian military in August took delivery of hundreds of Iranian-manufactured drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The White House says Iran has also sent personnel to Russian-controlled Crimea to provide technical support to the Russians on operation of the drones. Iranian officials have denied providing drones or other support to Russia.