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South Korea Investigates Potential North Korean 1970s-Era Arms Sales to Russia

The South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) is investigating suspicions over North Korean supplies to Russia with weapons from the 1970s for its ongoing war in Ukraine.

This investigation follows a local media report identifying 122mm artillery shells, potentially manufactured by North Korea in the 1970s, among weapons used by Russia in the conflict. Photos released last year by a Ukrainian photographer further fueled these suspicions, showing Korean markings “방-122” on recovered missile shells, believed to be 122mm multiple rocket launcher shells.

“The NIS is analyzing the relevant circumstance in detail and also continues to track overall military cooperation between North Korea and Russia,” according to the intelligence agency.

Furthermore, South Korea’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik estimates that North Korea has shipped roughly 6,700 containers to Russia since their leaders met in September 2023. These containers could hold millions of artillery shells (both 152mm and 122mm), bolstering Russia’s war effort.

Beyond the weapons shipment, South Korea is also concerned about the potential for illicit missile parts being sent to North Korea. This raises worries that North Korea might be developing new weapons, as evidenced by their recent announcement of an updated version of a 240mm multiple rocket launcher system, according to a state media report on May 11, which is also suspected to be handed over to Russia.

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