By Alex Willemyns
Russian forces have for the first time fired North Korean-made ballistic missiles into Ukraine, a White House spokesman said Thursday.
Pyongyang “recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several ballistic missiles,” and Moscow appeared to have twice test-fired the missiles into Ukrainian territory, said John Kirby, the spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.
Kirby said the first launch took place Saturday and “appears to have landed in an open field in the Zaporizhzhia region.” The second took place on Tuesday, “launched multiple North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine, including as part of this overnight aerial attack.”
“We’re still assessing the impacts,” he said. “We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches, and we anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.”
He said the missiles had a range of about 900 kilometers (about 550 miles) and called the supply of the weapons “a significant and concerning escalation” in North Korea’s support for Russia.
“In return for its support, we assess that Pyongyang is seeking military assistance from Russia, including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment or materials, and other advanced technologies,” Kirby said.
The spokesman said that the United States would unveil new sanctions against some of the people responsible for the transfer of the North Korean weapons and that American diplomats would raise the “illegal” provision of the weapons in a U.N. Security Council session.
U.S. officials have for months warned of the budding ties between Moscow and Pyongyang, both of whom have been on the receiving end of a slew of heavy-hitting and isolating U.S.-led sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Russia in a high-profile meeting in September and South Korea’s spy agency in November said that it believed North Korea had already shipped more than a million artillery shells to Russia.
Also in November, a Russian soldier appeared to debunk the denials from Mosow and Pyongyang of any such transfers occurring, posting images of himself posing in front of North Korean-made rockets.
The United States says the arms transfers violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions against dealings with the Pyongyang regime, all of which Moscow voted in favor of at the time.