North Korean weapons kill Ukrainians. Implications are far greater

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By Creative Media News

  • Ukrainian weapons inspector reveals North Korean missiles targeting Ukraine
  • Missiles assembled with advanced foreign technology, raise international concerns
  • North Korea’s proliferation poses global security risks, exploiting sanction loopholes

Khrystyna Kimachuk, a young Ukrainian weapons inspector, received information on 2 January that an odd-looking missile had struck a structure in the capital city of Kharkiv. She commenced contacting her military associates in Ukraine, fervent in her desire to obtain the information. She had the mangled wreckage arranged in a highly secure area of the capital city of Kyiv within a week.

She began photographing each component as she disassembled it, down to the computer processors and screws that were smaller than her fingernails. Even though she could immediately discern that this was not a Russian missile, she was tasked with proving it.

Amidst the jumble of protruding cables and metal, Ms. Kimachuk observed a minuscule Korean alphabet character entombed within. She then discovered a more illuminating detail. The number 112 was imprinted in multiple locations on the carapace. The corresponding date on the North Korean calendar is 2023. Suddenly, she realized that she was beholding the initial tangible indication that her nation was being targeted by North Korean military capabilities.

We had heard that they had supplied Russia with weapons, but I was the only one who could examine, touch, and see it in a manner that had never been done before. “This was extremely thrilling,” she exclaimed to me via telephone from Kyiv.

Since then, according to the Ukrainian military, Russia has launched dozens of North Korean missiles onto Ukrainian territory. They are responsible for at least 24 fatalities and over 70 injuries.

Despite recent rumors that Kim Jong Un is preparing to launch a nuclear war, North Korea’s capacity to exacerbate ongoing conflicts and sow instability on a global scale now poses the greatest imminent danger.

Ms. Kimachuk is an employee of Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organization whose mission is to determine the manufacturing process of weapons recovered from battle. But the most astounding revelation did not emerge until after she had completed photographing the missile’s remnants and her team had analyzed its hundreds of components.

It was overflowing with cutting-edge foreign technology. The majority of electronic components have been produced in the United States and Europe within the last few years. As recently as March 2023, a computer processor was manufactured in the United States. This meant that within a matter of months, North Korea had covertly acquired critical weapon components, concealed them within the nation, assembled the missile, and clandestinely conveyed it to Russia, where it was deployed to the frontline and detonated.

Deputy director of CAR Damien Spleeters remarked, “This was the greatest surprise: North Korea is still able to obtain everything it needs to manufacture its weapons, and it is doing so with extraordinary speed, despite being subject to severe sanctions for nearly two decades.”

Joseph Byrne, an expert on North Korea at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defense think center, was similarly astounded in London.

He stated that it never occurred to him that North Korean ballistic missiles would be used to murder people on European soil. Since Mr. Kim met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia in September of last year to allegedly negotiate an arms deal, he and his team at RUSI have been monitoring the shipment of North Korean weapons to Russia.

By utilizing satellite imagery, researchers have identified four Russian cargo ships transporting hundreds of containers at a time as they navigated between North Korea and a Russian military port.

RUSI estimates that a total of 7,000 containers containing over a million ammunition shells and grad rockets, the kind that can be launched in large volleys from vehicles, have been shipped. Intelligence from the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Korea supports their assessments; however, Russia and North Korea have denied the trade.

Mr. Byrne stated that these rockets and shells, which are currently among the most coveted items on the planet, enable Russia to continue bombarding Ukrainian cities while the United States and Europe hesitate over what armaments to contribute.

Purchase and blasting

However, what has most alarmed Mr. Byrne and his colleagues is the discovery of ballistic missiles on the battlefield, as it provides information about North Korea’s weapons program.

North Korea has engaged in the exportation of its weaponry since the 1980s, primarily to nations situated in North Africa and the Middle East, such as Iran, Libya, and Syria. They have typically been obsolete, Soviet-style missiles with an unfavorable standing. Hamas combatants most likely employed some of Pyongyang’s obsolete rocket-propelled grenades during their assault on October 7th, according to available evidence.

However, the missile launched on January 2, which was dissected by Ms. Kimachuk, appeared to be the Hwasong 11, Pyongyang’s most advanced short-range missile with a range of up to 700 kilometers (435 miles).

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in North Korean armaments and non-proliferation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, asserts that despite the Ukrainians’ downplaying of their accuracy, they appear to be no more dangerous than the Russian missiles.

Dr. Lewis explained that one benefit of these projectiles is that they are incredibly inexpensive. This allows for increased expenditures and firing in an attempt to overcome air defenses, which appears to be precisely what the Russians are doing.

Consequently, the quantity of these missiles that North Korea is capable of producing becomes an issue. The South Korean government recently reported that North Korea had shipped 6,700 containers of munitions to Russia. It further stated that Pyongyang’s weapons factories were operating at maximum capacity, and Dr. Lewis, an expert on these factories using satellite data, estimates that they are capable of producing a few hundred per year.

Mr. Spleeters and his team, still in disbelief over their discovery, are currently attempting to deduce how this is conceivable because companies are prohibited from supplying North Korea with components.

As Mr. Spleeters explained, a number of the computer chips that are essential to modern armaments and direct them to their targets through the air are also utilized to power our automobiles, washing machines, and phones.

These are being sold in an astounding quantity throughout the globe. Manufacturers invest billions in distributors, who subsequently resell them for millions; consequently, they frequently lack awareness of the ultimate destination of their products.

Nevertheless, Mr. Byrne was displeased to discover that so many of the missile’s components originated in the West. It demonstrated that the effectiveness and resilience of North Korea’s procurement networks were greater than his perception, as he is an expert in these networks.

According to his knowledge, North Koreans residing abroad establish illegitimate businesses in Hong Kong or other Central Asian nations to purchase goods primarily with stolen currency. The products are then transported to North Korea, typically via its border with China. As soon as a legitimate business is identified and sanctioned, a sham organization will emerge to replace it.

Sanctions have been widely acknowledged as an imprecise instrument in the fight against these networks; however, for them to remain effective, they must be consistently revised and enforced. Since 2017, both China and Russia have declined to implement additional sanctions against North Korea.

Moscow’s procurement of Pyongyang’s armaments constitutes a direct violation of the sanctions it previously supported as a United Nations Security Council member. Subsequently, to evade scrutiny, it essentially disbanded a United Nations commission that monitored sanctions violations earlier this year.

Mr. Byrne stated that we are witnessing the real-time collapse of United Nations sanctions against North Korea, which provides Pyongyang with considerable breathing room.

The ramifications of this situation extend well beyond the Ukraine conflict.

North Korea stands to gain the most, according to Mr. Byrne. They have provided substantial assistance to the Russians, which has granted them an immense amount of leverage.

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RUSI documented the shipment of substantial quantities of oil from Russia to North Korea in March, while railcars carrying rice and flour were observed traversing the land border between the two countries. This agreement, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds, will strengthen Pyongyang’s military as well as its economy.

Additionally, Russia has the potential to furnish the North with critical raw materials for the ongoing production of its missiles, military equipment including fighter aircraft, and, in the most dire case scenario, technical assistance to enhance its nuclear arsenal.

Furthermore, this is the first time that the North will have the opportunity to test its most recent missiles in a realistic combat scenario. By utilizing this invaluable data, it will be possible to enhance them.

A significant missile supplier, Pyongyang?

Even more concerning is the fact that the war is serving as a retail window for North Korea to the rest of the world.

Dr. Lewis opined that now that Pyongyang is mass producing these weapons, it will seek to sell them to additional nations; if the missiles are effective for Russia, they will be effective for others as well. This is particularly significant given that the Russians are establishing the precedent that sanction violations are acceptable.

He foresees that North Korea will emerge as a significant provider of missiles to nations comprising the China-Russia-Iran alliance in the future. The United States expressed “extreme concern” following Iran’s attack on Israel this month that North Korea might be collaborating with Iran on its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

“When we discuss this issue, I see many gloomy faces,” Mr. Spleeters remarked. However, there is hope because we now recognize their dependence on foreign technology and can take action accordingly.

Mr. Spleeters is optimistic that they can sever North Korea’s supply chains through collaboration with manufacturers. His team has previously identified and terminated a malicious network before its ability to finalize a crucial transaction.

Still, Dr. Lewis remains unconvinced.

“We can make it more difficult, inconvenient, and possibly more expensive, but that will not stop North Korea from developing these weapons,” he said, adding that the West’s attempt to contain the renegade state had ultimately failed.

Dr. Lewis explained that its missiles are currently not only a source of prestige and political influence but also of enormous financial gains. Consequently, why would Kim Jong Un now ever give them up?

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