The White House says North Korea is covertly supplying Russia with a "significant" number of artillery shells for use in Ukraine. John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, tells CNN that while Pyongyang denied reports in September it was selling weapons to Russia, intelligence indictates that North Korea has sent a "significant number of artillery shells, while obfuscating the real destination of the arms shipments by trying to make it appear as though they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa." Kirby said at a briefing Wednesday that the US is monitoring to determine whether the shipments have actually been received.
"It is not an insignificant number of shells, but we don't believe they are in such a quantity that they would change the momentum of the war," Kirby said, per NBC. He said the weapons would not "tangibly change the momentum either in the east or in the south," where the heaviest fighting is taking place. American officials have described Russia's attempts to source weapons from North Korea and Iran as a sign of desperation.
Kirby said the US has an "idea" of which countries North Korea is trying to funnel the weapons through, but he declined to go into specifics because the US is still weighing its options, the AP reports. United Nations resolutions have banned North Korea from importing and exporting weapons. A North Korean proposal to send workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow claims to have annexed, would also violate UN resolutions. (Analysts say that while shells made in North Korea will be compatible with Russia's launchers, the quality is probably low.)