North Korea says that it has never sold weapons to Russia and has no plans to do so, following US reports that Moscow was turning to Pyongyang to replenish stockpiles.
US officials said that Russia was in the process of purchasing rockets and artillery shells from North Korea.
They said such moves, along with the alleged purchases of Iranian weapons, showed that Western sanctions were impeding Russia’s efforts in the Ukraine war.
Moscow denied the reports at that time.
Any movement of arms between the two countries would be in violation of the United Nations sanctions.
On Thursday, in a statement carried by North Korean state media KCNA, an unnamed official at North Korea’s defense ministry said: “We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will have no plan to export them.”
It accused the US, and other “hostile forces”, of spreading rumors to “pursue its base political and military aims”.
In early September, a US State Department spokesperson said Russia’s North Korean purchases “could include literally millions of rounds, rockets and artillery shells.”
But National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby later appeared to caveat that statement, saying the purchases had not yet been completed and there was no evidence to suggest the weapons would be used in the Ukraine war.
Many of North Korea’s Russian-designed weapons hail from the Soviet era, but they have missiles similar to Russian ones.
The statements followed reports quoting US officials that the first shipments of Iranian-made drones had been delivered to Russia, and that Russian drone operators had traveled to Iran to receive training. Iran denied delivering weapons
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has proved costly for its military, despite the use of advanced weapons such as cruise missiles. The Ukrainian forces, using Western weapons that have been funneled into the country in recent months, have inflicted heavy losses.
Russian-North Korean relations declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but have gradually picked up in recent years as Russia’s relations with the West have soured.
With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Kim Jong-un’s regime blamed the US for the conflict and accused the West of pursuing a “hegemonic policy” that justified Russia’s use of force.
In July, North Korea was one of the few countries that officially recognized the two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. In retaliation, Ukraine cut all diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to expand their “comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations” in a letter to his counterpart Kim Jong-un. North Korea has also said that it will deepen its “comrade friendship” with Moscow.