Whatever the cargo type, Russia-North Korea train to run more often

Photo: Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

Russia wants to increase rail freight activity to and from North Korea. Rail traffic is far from brisk, but Russia intends to increase its frequency, said the Russian ambassador to North Korea Aleksandr Matsegora in an interview with RBC, a Russian news agency. This is not long after the US accused it of transporting ammunition to Russia, a claim which the countries deny.

Rail freight between the countries resumed on 1 November last year, after it had been suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. North Korea applied strict safety measures, which resulted in a halt to trains entering the country from other countries, including Russia and China.

Horses or ammunition?

The news that rail services resumed are coupled with contradicting claims about the type or cargo on the trains. According to Russia, it is transporting medicine, flour, cooking oil and live animals to North Korea. Indeed, horses are not new to the rails between the countries. Between 2010 and 2019, over 130 horses were shipped from Russia to North Korea for a total of almost 600,000 euros.

However, the US claims that the rail service has transported ammunition from North Korea to Russia. According to the White House Security Council, North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by the Wagner group towards the end of last year, and it says that it has images to prove it. The images show containers loaded on the train in North Korea, but they do not show what is inside the containers.

The Russian ambassador to North Korea denied the claims in the RBC interview, saying that Russia is able to handle its special military operations in Ukraine without resorting to arms procurement from North Korea (cited by KBS, a Russian news agency).

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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