A top White House official has said North Korea would pay “a price” if it sells weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine, after Washington warned that Pyongyang was in talks with Moscow about a potential arms deal.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the United States believes the negotiations between North Korea and Russia are “actively advancing”.
“Providing weapons to Russia for use on the battlefield to attack grain silos and the heating infrastructure of major cities as we head into winter, to try to conquer territory that belongs to a modern sovereign nation – this is not going to reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” Sullivan told reporters.
His comments come after another official in US President Joe Biden’s administration said on Monday that Washington expected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has refused to comment on the US claims, stressing that it has “nothing to say” about reports of potential direct talks between the two leaders.
There have been public signs of closer ties between Russia and North Korea in recent weeks.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea and met with Kim in July. Kim and Putin also exchanged letters last month vowing to bolster relations between their two countries.
On Tuesday, US Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel also warned North Korea against providing weapons to Russia, telling reporters that Moscow’s turn to Pyongyang for arms shows the effectiveness of US sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.
“Russia has been forced to search desperately around the world for weapons it can use in its war in Ukraine because of our sanctions and export controls and the effects that those have had,” Patel said.
Asked what potential consequences Washington would impose on Pyongyang should weapons be sent to Moscow, Patel did not provide details but said the US would “take appropriate steps as necessary” in coordination with its partners.
Last year, the US accused North Korea of covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia – an allegation that was denied by both Moscow and Pyongyang.
On Tuesday, Sullivan said the Biden administration will continue to push to “dissuade the North Koreans” from providing Russia with weapons.
“We will continue to call on North Korea to abide by its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians,” he said.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence and military analyst, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that it is “possible” that Putin could meet with Kim next week when he travels to Vladivostok, a city in the far east of Russia, for an economic forum.
“Right now, it seems the relationships between Moscow and Pyongyang are blooming,” Felgenhauer said. “Both sides have things to offer each other, and both sides are under Western pressure and sanctions, so they seem to be natural allies.”
The US has been warning its competitors and adversaries – including China – against helping Russia in its military offensive in Ukraine.
Washington has provided Kyiv with billions of dollars in military, humanitarian and budgetary aid since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022.
The Biden administration also has imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow to penalise it for the war.
After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital in the early weeks of the invasion, Russia has limited its war goals to occupying eastern parts of the country. Ukraine launched a counteroffensive earlier this year but has only made modest gains against Russian forces.
“Ukraine’s armed forces have not achieved their goals on any front,” Russia’s Ministry of Defence quoted Shoigu as saying on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, intense fighting has broken out in recent days in the southeastern Zaporizhia region of Ukraine.
The Institute for the Study of War think-tank said on Tuesday that Ukrainian troops have advanced beyond some of the anti-tank ditches and dense minefields in Zaporizhia, appearing to make progress through the Russian defences.
Ukraine also has been stepping up its cross-border attacks inside Russia.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said on Tuesday that at least one person was killed as a result of “repeated shelling” from Ukraine.