After a year and a half of fighting in Ukraine, Russia needs to replenish its supplies of ammunition for what could be a long war of attrition. Along with ramping up its domestic arms production, Moscow is turning to an old ally with a vast arsenal — North Korea.
Estimates say the reclusive and isolated Asian country has tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets that could give a huge boost to the Russian army.
U.S. officials expect North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit Russia in the coming days to seal a possible deal on munitions transfer with President Vladimir Putin. That would be a remarkable reversal from the 1950-53 Korean War, when the Soviet Union provided the communist North with weapons and ammunition.
“We know that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has visited recently for artillery shells predominantly, and most likely that will be discussed between Putin and Kim Jong Un,” said Alexander Gabuev, head of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.
Shoigu became the first Russian defense chief to visit North Korea since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Images of him at a military parade in the capital, Pyongyang, in July, alongside Kim and the medal-laden North Korean military brass, was a strong sign of a vigorous effort by Moscow to reach out to the North. Shoigu said that joint military drills were possible.
Asked about a possible visit by Kim and a deal that would see North Korean…