US envoy calls alleged North Korea, Russia weapons delivery dangerous

By Stanley Widianto and Hyunsu Yim

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

The weapons deliveries between the two countries were “dangerous” and “destabilising,” Kim told reporters after meeting his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Jakarta, and reaffirmed U.S. commitment to protecting 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, referring to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The meeting took place days after the United States said the North provided Russia with a large shipment of weapons, which it said raised concerns and indicated an expanded military relationship between the two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 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 obtained 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.

“Kim Jong Un is continuing with his nuclear obsession by sacrificing people’s livelihood and violating their human rights,” Kim Gunn, South Korea’s nuclear envoy, said, condemning the alleged military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang as a “blatant” violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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

South Korea’s foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the report about the hotline being ready.

On Tuesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to boost the defence industry as he addressed 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 and Bernadette Baum)