US envoy calls alleged North Korea, Russia weapons delivery dangerous

By Stanley Widianto and Hyunsu Yim

JAKARTA/SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim on Tuesday criticised relations between North Korea and Russia as “very worrying,” after the White House said last week Pyongyang recently provided Russia with a shipment of weapons.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Jakarta, Kim called weapons deliveries between the two countries “dangerous” and “destabilising,” and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to protect its allies.

“At the same time we will continue our work to counter the DPRK’s unlawful WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missiles,” Kim told a briefing. DPRK is the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The meeting took place days after a new accusation by the United States that the North recently provided Russia with a large shipment of weapons, which it said was an indication of expanded military relationship between the two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s made a rare trip to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin last month, fanning concerns they could shore up Russia’s military in Ukraine while North Korea obtains missile technology banned under U.N. resolutions.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will visit North Korea this week, according to North Korea’s state media KCNA and Russia’s foreign ministry.

In a further sign of growing trilateral security cooperation, South Korea, the United States and Japan have completed work on a three-way communication hotline, Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday citing a senior Seoul official.

The three countries’ leaders announced a commitment to consult each other in times of crisis at a summit in Camp David in August.

Technical tests of the system have been completed, Yonhap said, citing the anonymous source. The hotline is to be used by the leaders or their top national security advisers in times of security crises, it said.

South Korea’s foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the report.

On Tuesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to boost the defence industry as a key part of national security strategy, addressing the opening of the country’s largest-ever defence exhibition, which included a rare flyover by a U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bomber.

Pyongyang has repeatedly criticised the United States over the deployment of strategic assets in the region, including the recent arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier, calling it a provocation.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, Hyunsu Yim and Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Ed Davies)