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Surge in North Korea-Russia Rail Traffic Sparks Concerns

Surge in North Korea-Russia Rail Traffic Sparks Concerns

Rail traffic at the North Korea-Russia border has witnessed a significant increase in the past month, as revealed by satellite imagery, raising questions about the nature of the cargo being transported. Beyond Parallel, a US-based Korean unification think tank, analyzed the images, noting a level of traffic “far greater” than seen in the past five years. Following the Kim-Putin summit, the Tumangang Rail Facility on the North Korea-Russia border displayed an unprecedented volume of freight railcar traffic in images captured as of October 5, 2023.

North Korea’s Rail Surge: Arms Transfer Concerns

Speculation arises as a U.S. government official suggested that North Korea may be transferring artillery to Russia, potentially to support Russia in its conflict with Ukraine. The Tumangang Rail Facility in North Korea has seen a steady rise in freight cars, documenting approximately 73 railcars compared to a maximum of 20 previously recorded over the past five years. Beyond Parallel suggests that the surge in rail traffic likely indicates North Korea supplying arms and munitions to Russia, aligning with discussions of military exchanges and cooperation between Kim and Putin during their recent summit.

Despite the extensive use of tarps and freight coverings to conceal the contents of the cargo shipments, it is believed that North Korea and Russia discussed a potential arms deal during the recent summit. However, no formal agreement was signed. Reports suggest that North Korea could receive advanced weapons technology and food supplies from Russia in exchange for ammunition and artillery.

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Experts cast doubt on the potential impact of North Korea’s partnership with Russia in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. Seth Jones, director of the International Security Program and Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, views North Korea as a last resort for assistance due to its desperate situation and global isolation. Both Russia and Ukraine, grappling with the 20-month-long conflict, seek additional support to replenish munitions and heavy artillery destroyed in the ongoing hostilities.

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