North Korean military aid to Russia unlikely to change course of Ukraine war- Reuters

12.09.2023, 09:24
North Korean military aid to Russia unlikely to change course of Ukraine war- Reuters - Photo

If North Korea were to transfer artillery rounds and other weapons to Russia for the war against Ukraine, it would be unlikely to change the course of the conflict, military analysts told Reuters.

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia, in a first overseas trip since 2020. Mr Kim and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss the supply of missiles to Russia in exchange for advanced technologies for satellites and nuclear submarines.

Joseph Dempsey, a defence researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters North Korea is believed to have a large stockpile of artillery shells and rockets that would be compatible with Soviet-era weapons, as well as a history of producing such ammunition.

However, the size of these stores and its degradation over time is less clear, as is the scale of ongoing production, but these stockpiles could help replenish those severely depleted in Ukraine.

"While access to such stocks may prolong the conflict, it is unlikely going to change the outcome," Mr Dempsey added.

According to Western estimates, Russia spent 10 to 11 million shells in Ukraine last year, while it is capable of producing no more than 2 million per year.

Siemon Wezeman, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Reuters North Korea's offering is likely to be less high-tech but accessing those stocks would likely significantly increase Russia's capabilities in the short term, while North Korean production lines would help in the longer term.

"Almost none of the ammunition is in any way 'advanced’—it would feed the traditional Russian barrage type use of artillery but not provide Russia with any precision ammunition," he said.

Patrick Hinton, a British Army fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the question of quality in North Korean artillery shells could have an impact if flaws fall outside accepted tolerances.

"Poorly made ammunition will have inconsistent performance – behaviours in flight may be affected which will reduce accuracy; poor quality fuses may lead to premature function; shelf life may be reduced if the content is poorly made," he said. "These all need to be made to a high specification otherwise they may not land where they are expected to, which can have catastrophic consequences."

The performance of North Korea’s artillery and crews has been suspect since the North Korean army fired around 170 shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in 2010, killing four people.

According to a report by the Washington-based 38 North project, more than half those rounds fell in the waters around the island, while about 20 percent of those that impacted the island failed to explode.

Such a high failure rate suggested some North Korea-manufactured artillery munitions suffered from either poor quality control during manufacture or poor storage conditions and standards.

However, with very large numbers of ammunition, the lack of precision and the occasional dud shells or rockets wouldn't matter much to the Russians, Mr Wezeman told Reuters.

"However, it would matter if Korean ammunition is of such poor quality that it is just unsafe to use for Russian soldiers," he suggested.

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