Expert Analysis Reveals North Korean Missile Debris in Ukraine

At a recent UN Security Council meeting, the United States and its allies confronted Russia and North Korea over allegations of illegal arms transfers, revealing that North Korean ballistic missiles have been used in Russian attacks on Ukraine since 2018

by Sededin Dedovic
Expert Analysis Reveals North Korean Missile Debris in Ukraine
© Pool / getty Images

The head of the research organization investigating the origin of weapons used in Russian attacks on Ukraine since 2018 told the UN Security Council that the organization had "indisputably" established that a ballistic missile, whose remnants were found in Ukraine this year, came from North Korea, reports AP.

The US and its Western allies clashed with representatives of Russia and North Korea at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, claiming that these two countries are violating the UN embargo on North Korean weapons exports.

Russia dismissed these claims as "groundless," while North Korea described the discussion as "extremely audacious" regarding "alleged 'weapons transfers.' " Jonah Leff, the executive director of Conflict Armament Research, presented a detailed analysis at the Security Council meeting of the missile that struck the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on January 2 of this year.

He stated that his organization analyzed the rocket motor, the tail section, and about 300 components produced by 26 companies from eight countries and territories, and concluded that it was a KN-23 or KN-24 missile produced in North Korea in 2023.

These conclusions were based on the missile's unique characteristics, diameter, thrust trajectory, analysis of the impact site, Korean lettering on missile parts, and other markings and components dating from 2023. Leff said that their teams had examined three other identical North Korean missiles that also hit Kyiv and Zaporizhzhia this year.

They also identified conventional weapons, including artillery rockets produced in 1977, seized at the front line, not previously seen on the battlefield in Ukraine, produced by North Korea and possibly part of a recent larger shipment of rockets.

The Security Council discussed the illegal transfer of weapons from North Korea on Friday at the request of France, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the US. The meeting followed a Russian veto on March 28 that ended the monitoring by a UN expert team enforcing sanctions against North Korea for developing its nuclear program.

The US and its European and Asian allies accused Moscow of attempting to evade oversight while allegedly violating sanctions by purchasing weapons from Pyongyang for its war against Ukraine. Although the mandate of the UN experts monitoring North Korean sanctions had expired, their work had been extended since 2009 with Russia's support.

The head of the UN disarmament service, Izumi Nakamitsu, told the Security Council on Friday that it was important to note that the Security Council committee overseeing the implementation of sanctions against North Korea continues to function and will continue to monitor the sanctions regime.

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said that the presentation of expert Leff, with technical details, was very convincing and that the independent findings of Leff's organization confirm reports and analyses from other sources.

"As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has the responsibility to support and strengthen international peace and security. Yet, Russia is launching ballistic missiles against the Ukrainian people that it has illegally obtained from North Korea," said Wood.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia accused the Western initiators of the meeting of trying to use the Security Council for "anti-Russian and anti-North Korean claims" and spreading baseless accusations to "divert attention from their own destructive actions that encourage escalation in the region."

Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations© Michael M.

Santiago / Getty Images

He stated that the claims of Russian use of North Korean missiles in Ukraine were "absolutely false" and questioned the professionalism and expertise of those who examined the missile remnants in Ukraine.

Agreement between Russia and North Korea

During the recent meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea and Russia pledged to provide each other with immediate military assistance in case one of them is attacked.

Japan and South Korea expressed concern about this agreement, and the NATO Secretary-General said the pact shows that authoritarian forces are uniting. What does the Pentagon say? General Pat Ryder, the press secretary, commented during a briefing on Tuesday that if Kim decides to send North Korean forces to the battlefield in Ukraine to fight on Russia's side, they will be used as cannon fodder, according to Politico.

"If I were the head of North Korea's military staff, I would think twice about sending my forces to be cannon fodder in an illegal war against Ukraine. We have seen the losses suffered by Russian forces," said Ryder. Russia's military strategy during the war included using an overwhelming number of soldiers to overcome Ukraine.

Although it suffered heavy losses during its illegal invasion, it managed to quickly replace troops on the front line. The historic agreement signed by the two countries in Pyongyang does not mention the current war, and there are still no direct indications that North Korea is preparing to send troops.

However, according to Reuters, Pyongyang plans to send its military engineering unit to the occupied territories of Ukraine to participate in reconstruction. Soldiers sent to Ukraine will likely serve as foreign workers, earning money for North Korea, whose economy has been devastated by international sanctions.

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