White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday warned North Korea against supplying Russia with arms amid its war against Ukraine, saying Pyongyang will “pay a price” if it follows through on a potential deal.
Sullivan told reporters that discussions are “actively advancing” between North Korea and Russia regarding Pyongyang’s military support, heading toward potential top leader-level talks.
“The Russians have imbued them with an increased intensity,” Sullivan said of the discussions.
Sullivan also warned that North Korea will face consequences from the international community if the nation decides to transfer arms to Russia.
“Providing weapons to Russia for use on the battlefield to attack grain silos and heating infrastructure of major cities as we head into winter, to try to conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation — this will not reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” he said.
U.S. officials said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may travel to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The officials also said Russia would buy ammunition from North Korea in return for supplying Pyongyang with food and critical technology.
North Korea has a robust defense production base for artillery shells, which could benefit Russian forces who are locked in a grinding war in Ukraine.
Concerns about a developing military alliance between the two nations have grown since Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to North Korea in July.
Sullivan on Tuesday said Shoigu asked for military support during the July trip. He said Russia has grown desperate during the war and is looking for additional support to bolster its aims in Ukraine.
“We have continued to squeeze Russia’s defense industrial base and they are now going about looking to whatever source they can find,” he said.
The U.S. has already sanctioned North Korean entities that have supplied arms and ammunition to Wagner Group, a mercenary company that fought on behalf of Moscow in Ukraine. But there is no evidence Pyongyang has directly supported Russia’s armed forces.
In recent weeks, Washington has begun to warn that might change. Sullivan pledged the U.S. and its allies will continue to try and dissuade North Korea from making a deal and said the White House will publicly report on developments.
“We will continue to call on North Korea to abide by its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians,” he said.