The White House called on North Korea not to provide any weapons to Russia on Monday, ahead of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's widely anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, underscored that the two countries will likely continue discussing a potential arms deal during Kim's ongoing trip to Russia.
"As we have warned publicly, arms discussions between Russia and the DPRK are expected to continue during Kim Jong-Un's trip to Russia," Watson told Yonhap News Agency when asked to comment on Kim's visit to Russia.
"We urge the DPRK to abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia," she added.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
Pyongyang reported earlier that Kim will soon visit Russia at the invitation of Putin.
South Korean officials said a special train believed to be carrying the reclusive North Korean leader appeared to have left for Russia.
NSC coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby noted the possibility of an arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow, citing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's trip to Pyongyang in July, which he said was followed by a trip of some 20 Russian officials to North Korea.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit any arms trade with North Korea.
"(An) arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would directly violate a number of UN Security Council resolutions. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia, and we are taking action directly to exposing and sanctioning individuals and entities working to facilitate arm deals between Russia and the DPRK," Jean-Pierre said earlier.
Jung Pak, deputy assistant secretary of state for multilateral affairs and deputy special representative for North Korean affairs, expressed concerns over the North Korean leader's visit to Russia, saying it may be the "final step" before North Korea begins providing large amounts of weapons to Russia.
"This can only be seen as the next and maybe final step in a series of conversations between Russia and the DPRK to finalize a growing arms transfer relationship, in which Russia receives significant quantities and multiple types of munitions from the DPRK for the Russian military to use against Ukraine," Pak said of a possible Kim-Putin summit in a seminar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington.
"Despite the DPRK's aggressive posture, the United States has remained clear that we have no hostile intentions for the DPRK. We are not seeking conflict. Our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," she added.
The US diplomat also expressed concerns over growing cooperation between North Korea, Russia and China, noting that Beijing and Moscow are already shielding Pyongyang from the consequences of repeatedly violating multiple UNSC resolutions by launching ballistic missiles in "unprecedented scale."
"Look no further than July when the Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and the PRC Politburo member Li stood beside Kim Jong-un as they celebrated UN Security Council resolution-prohibited ballistic missile advancements being paraded through central Pyongyang," Pak told the seminar.
"Such public support is backed by practical support. Moscow and Beijing have been shielding the DPRK from deserved condemnation at the UN Security Council for repeated and egregious violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions following scores of ballistic missile tests and attempted space launches in unprecedented scale," she added.
China and Russia have vetoed more than a dozen attempts by the US and other countries at the UNSC to hold North Korea accountable for its provocative missile tests, while accusing the US of escalating tension in the region by holding joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan.
"Unlike the DPRK's ballistic missile launches and other activities, our joint exercises are consistent with international law. US and Republic of Korea military exercises are routine and defensive in nature, and we reduce risk and promote transparency by announcing the exercises in advance, including dates and activities," said Pak.
A state department spokesperson later reiterated that any arms transfer between North Korea and Russia would be in violation of UNSC resolutions.
"So we are going to monitor very closely the outcome of this meeting," Matthew Miller told a daily press briefing when asked about a potential Kim-Putin summit.
"I will remind both countries that any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and we, of course, have aggressively enforced our sanctions against entities that fund Russia's war effort and we will continue to enforce those sanctions and will not hesitate to impose new sanctions appropriate," he added. (Yonhap)