South Korea's Defense Minister, Shin Won-sik, has raised concerns about North Korea's potential sale of new types of tactical guided missiles to Russia, including short-range ballistic missiles. This statement comes amid heightened tensions and North Korea's increasing military activities.
In an interview with Yonhap News, Shin discussed the likelihood of North Korea testing solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missiles and possibly launching a long-range missile. These developments could escalate tensions ahead of crucial elections in South Korea and the United States.
According to Shin, North Korean state media revealed a weapons system during leader Kim Jong Un's recent visit to a munitions plant that appears to be short-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons. These missiles, described as a new type of weapon with an estimated range of 100-180 kilometers, could pose a significant threat if sold to Russia.
Shin highlighted Kim Jong Un's visit to ammunition factories as potentially related to North Korea's alleged arms supplies to Russia. This includes the possible sale of KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles, which could have profound implications for the conflict in Ukraine.
Recent intelligence declassified by the White House indicates that North Korea has provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several missiles with a 900 km range. As of the end of December, North Korea is estimated to have supplied Russia with approximately 5,000 containers of weapons.
Further, Shin expressed concern about the possibility of Russia providing technological assistance to North Korea's weapons program in exchange for arms trafficking. This includes aid in developing Pyongyang's spy satellite, which is currently considered rudimentary but could see improved capabilities with Russian support.
Shin also warned of North Korea's preparations for testing new types of intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the possibility of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles at a normal angle to test re-entry technology and precision strike capabilities. These missile tests could potentially target U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam.
Lastly, the minister emphasized that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile development is unacceptable and will only result in increased international sanctions. He stressed that nuclear development is a "poisoned cup" for Kim Jong-un and not a "sword of omnipotence."
This revelation about North Korea's potential arms dealings with Russia adds another layer of complexity to the global geopolitical situation, highlighting the interconnectedness of regional conflicts and the broader implications for international security.