Watch CBS News

North Korea provides Russia artillery for the Ukraine war as U.S. hands Kyiv ammunition seized from Iran

Biden to give "major speech" on Ukraine aid
Biden to deliver "major speech" on Ukraine funding 03:24

Kyiv — North Korea has begun transferring artillery to Russia, bolstering Vladimir Putin's forces as they continue their 20-month invasion of Ukraine, a U.S. official tells CBS News. It was not immediately clear whether the transfer is part of a new, long-term supply chain or a more limited consignment, or what North Korea is getting in return for the weapons.

On the other side of the front lines, the U.S. has handed Ukrainian forces a cache of ammunition seized from Iran, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The North Korean support for Moscow appears to be the culmination of the rare summit last month in Moscow, when Kim Jong Un traveled by train to meet Putin in person.

Kim told Putin during that meeting that he could count on North Korea's "full and unconditional support" for Russia's "sacred fight" to defend its security interests — an apparent reference to the assault on Ukraine.  

Kim was widely expected to ask Putin for cash and food to shore up North Korea's anaemic economy in exchange for his support for Moscow's assault on Ukraine, but also weapons and space technology.

One senior South Korean official told CBS News before the summit that Seoul was concerned Kim could be looking to acquire technology from Russia to build nuclear-powered submarines and more advanced rockets and satellites, in addition to cooperation on conventional weapons.

How North Korea has the means to help Russia 02:59

The official warned that if Russia and North Korea's bilateral ties deepened to such an extent, it would highlight Kim's ability to threaten not only America's close Asian allies South Korea and Japan, but the entire world.

Putin implied after the summit that he and Kim had discussed military cooperation, and to at least some degree, that cooperation appeared to be taking shape this week.

The cache of Iranian ammunition transferred by the U.S. to Ukraine, meanwhile, involves more than 1 million 7.62mm rounds, used in both machine guns and rifles.

The bullets were seized in December 2022 by the U.S. Navy from a ship heading from Iran to Yemen, where Tehran backs Houthi rebel forces involved in that country's grinding civil war. The U.S. Navy has seized several Iranian weapons shipments bound for Yemen, which are a violation of a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution banning the transfer of arms to Houthi forces.

Illicit weapons seized from a stateless fishing vessel in the North Arabian Sea are arranged for inventory aboard the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane on December 21, 2021. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Elisha Smith

The U.S. military's Central Command confirmed that it transferred the munitions to Ukraine on Monday. With further U.S. funding for Ukraine frozen for now amid the battle over the federal government's budget, the Biden administration has used the transfer of the Iranian ammunition as a workaround to continue supporting Kyiv. 

Iran has supplied Russia with drones for months, drawing condemnation from Ukraine, the U.S. and other Western nations for providing Moscow with one of its most heavily-relied on and lethal weapons of the war. The U.S. and its partners have accused both Iran and Russia of violating another U.N. resolution that bars the transfer of such weapons from Iran without the Security Council's approval.

Ukraine drone unit says $40 million in Russian hardware destroyed in past month 02:33

With the political gridlock in Washington leaving future U.S. support for their war effort in doubt, Ukraine's leaders and front-line forces continue to burn through their existing supplies not only of small arms ammuntion, but shells, missiles, vitally important drones and everything else at a stunning rate in front-line battles that have largely become stalemates.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.