N. Korea sold weapons to Russia mercenary group for Ukraine war: U.S.

North Korea sold weapons in November to a Russian mercenary group involved in the invasion of Ukraine, the United States said Thursday.

Washington has confirmed North Korea delivered "infantry rockets and missiles" to Russia for use by the Wagner Group, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement.

The U.S. government made the allegation a day after the Commerce Department revealed a plan to slap tougher sanctions on the Wagner Group, branding it "one of the most notorious mercenary organizations in the world."

White House national security spokesman John Kirby criticized North Korea on Thursday, noting its officials have said publicly that they would not support Russia's war in Ukraine.

But Washington has confirmed Pyongyang delivered weapons to the Wagner Group in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Kirby said in a separate statement.

The amount of material delivered to the group "will not change battlefield dynamics" in Ukraine, but Washington is concerned that Pyongyang is planning to deliver more military equipment, the U.S. officials said.

The U.S. government estimates that the Wagner Group currently has 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited from Russia's prisons, according to Kirby.

The U.N. envoy's statement also said the group's purchase of North Korean weapons contributes to instability on the Korean Peninsula by giving Pyongyang funds to further develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

The alleged sale of the weapons surfaced as North Korea has continued to test-fire ballistic missiles, including intercontinental missiles, at an unprecedented pace since earlier this year in defiance of Security Council resolutions.

The United States said it will raise North Korea's supply of weapons to the Wagner Group in Security Council sessions in the future.

© Kyodo News