No DPRK Arms to Russia Without China’s Say-So

By | March 27, 2023 | No Comments

The notion of North Korea supplying weapons with Russia continues to be a recurring theme in Russian-language media discourse, as shown by Sino-NK’s continuing coverage of this topic. One factor that has gotten little attention, however, is the China factor in DPRK weapons supplies to Russia for use in Ukraine. Mykhailo Zhyrokhov is the author of Weapons of Victory, a new book on the weaponry of the Ukrainian army.  Looking at the much-vaunted meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, Zhyrokhov brings us a point very much worth considering: that even in the DPRK-Russia relationship, there may be no way around Beijing. 


“Everything could change”: Kyiv-based analyst concerned about ammunition from the DPRK[1]


Russia can replenish its significantly-depleted supply of ammunition by buying it from Pyongyang.

This is the conclusion of Ukrainian military analyst Mykhailo Zhyrokhov, reports our PolitNavigator correspondent. 

He believes that, in theory, the DPRK’s military-industrial complex is “capable of supplying a wide range of ammunition to Russia.”

“The fact is that one of [North Korea military manufacturing’s] most interesting particularities is its optimization of areas that have been completely given over to domestic production and imports. If there’s something that is not freely sold or can be stopped too easily by the enemy, you need to make it yourself.”  

“If ‘import substitution’ doesn’t work, then gaps appear, and things are purchased ‘in store’ for many years of production and maintenance. It may be feasible to buy more later, but it’s better to play it safe,” the author wrote in the Ukrainian-language Gazeta.

As he stated, in all, North Korea’s arms industry “has incredible productivity, even under strongest sanctions.”

“The country is capable of producing ammunition for all types of artillery in the military’s weapons stocks in at least 17 factories. It’s like a zoo: 82-mm, 120-mm and 160-mm mortars; howitzers; 122-mm, 130-mm, 152-mm и 170-mm caliber self-propelled artillery; as well as 107 mm, 122-mm, 200-mm, 220-mm and 300-mm multiple rocket systems.”

“Thus, at least in theory, North Korea could initiate flows of weapons and ammunition. Furthermore, Russia has something to offer in exchange, be it oil or more modern technology,” Zhyrokhov believes.

In addition, he asserts that the DPRK, which conducts 85% of its external trade with China, wouldn’t take any such steps without Beijing’s approval.  

“China has not yet taken a clear-cut position on this issue. On the one hand, they want to play a major geopolitical role and are ready to step in as a peacemaking force between Russia and Ukraine. Supplying one side of the conflict with weapons would clearly not be favorable to such efforts. This is to say nothing of the fact that directly supplying weapons would lead to a direct conflict of interest with the United States, which could also include the Taiwan factor. At present, China would like to avoid that.”

“Nevertheless, one could say that this is based on the state of affairs in the spring of 2023, when Russia has not secured across-the-board help from its situational allies. All that could change” Zhyrokhov warns.


Original article by Igor Shkapa. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna


[1] Igor Shkapa, “Everything could change’: Kyiv-based analyst concerned about ammunition from the DPRK [«Все может измениться»: киевский аналитик опасается боеприпасов из КНДР]”, PolitNavigator, March 25, 2023,


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