White House confirms North Korea-Russia ammunition transport by rail

Image: Google EarthGoogle Earth

A couple of months after the first assumption that North Korea transports ammunition via rail to Russia, the White House National Security Council confirmed even the most sceptical. According to John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, North Korea transported rockets and missiles to Russia by rail in late 2022, and they have images to prove it.

In a press briefing on 20 January, Kirby said that the available footage proving undercover ammunition transport between North Korea and Russia is dated 18 November 2022. In his words: “North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by the Wagner group toward the end of last year. We are releasing imagery of this initial delivery. This imagery shows that on 18 November, five Russian railcars travelled from Russia to North Korea. The next day, 19 November, North Korea loaded those railcars with shipping containers, and the train returned to Russia”.

Imagery from NSC showing the transport of ammunition between North Korea and Russia. Image: Twitter. © Jack Margolin.

North Korean officials contradict US sources and deny any involvement in ammunition transport by rail to Russia. They have been doing so since early November when the first accusations surfaced. The NSC insists that North Korean officials falsely deny the allegations since the available images prove them otherwise.

Watchdog confirms increased train activity

According to 38North.org, a think tank monitoring developments in North Korea, the country has fully resumed trade by rail with Russia since November 2022. Several train movements between the two countries in early December confirm that “a North Korean rail yard on the border to Russia has been springing to life”, with trains entering and exiting the location and seemingly transporting both Russian and North Korean cargo.

However, the watchdog has not confirmed whether the transported cargo between the two countries indeed identifies as ammunition destined for the war in Ukraine.

First train after years sparked suspicions

To provide some context, everything started in early November 2022, when the first Russia-bound freight train in years left North Korea and crossed the Tumanagang bridge entering Russian territory. The trip occurred on Friday, 4 November, and the train carried three closed railcars with undetermined cargo, which in any case, sparked fears for a possible ammunition exchange between the two countries.

Before that, the rail freight link between Russia and North Korea was closed for several years. It was reinstated just days before the notorious transportation when a Russian train carrying 30 purebred Orlov Trotter horses entered North Korea.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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