TechHalting at Sea: North Korea's arms shipments to Russia come to a stop

Halting at Sea: North Korea's arms shipments to Russia come to a stop

Artillery shells, illustrative photo
Artillery shells, illustrative photo
Images source: © X | @nexta_tv

9:47 AM EST, March 2, 2024

Analysis of satellite imagery tracking previous arms transfer routes from North Korea to Russia reveals a halt in naval movement between the seaports of the two countries. This development raises questions among analysts of the conflict in Ukraine, notably whether this indicates logistical challenges for the Russians regarding artillery ammunition.

In October 2023, the British Ministry of Defense highlighted significant cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow in military supplies, specifying the maritime paths used by vessels transporting ammunition and weapons to Russian forces in Ukraine. This collaboration persisted for months but has recently witnessed a puzzling shift.

Has North Korea stopped supplying Russia?

According to a report by South Korea's NK Pro, there has been no activity on the previously used routes for around three weeks. This insight was gleaned from satellite imagery analysis near North Korean ports, with the latest shipment recorded on February 12.

The reasons behind this cessation are unclear. It could stem from production issues in North Korean factories or logistical challenges, as suggested by NK Pro. Alternatively, there might be a strategic shift to undisclosed aerial or railway routes, though a fallout between Russia and one of its closest allies seems improbable.

North Korea's support for Russia

Since August 2023, it's estimated that four container ships have completed at least 32 journeys from North Korea to Russia under this operation.

Initially, North Korea's aid primarily comprised 122mm and 152mm caliber shells, heavily utilized by Russian forces due to their compatibility with most of the army's artillery systems. Recent assessments indicate that Russia might have received up to 3 million such shells, according to reports.

Over time, North Korea's contribution has broadened to include ballistic missiles, specifically the KN-23 or KN-24 models. These solid-fueled missiles, equipped with approximately 1102-pound warheads, have been documented in action in Ukraine, showcasing the potent impact of North Korean missile technology.

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