/Is Russia Helping North Korea Weapon Development? Patrick Shanahan Wont Confirm or Deny

Is Russia Helping North Korea Weapon Development? Patrick Shanahan Wont Confirm or Deny

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has refused to deny Russian involvement in North Korea’s weapons development programs, following recent weapon tests.

Speaking with Fox News, Shanahan discussed a wide range of key foreign policy issues, but was notably guarded on the issue of North Korean cooperation with Russia.

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Shanahan—nominated last week as permanent secretary of defense to replace James Mattis—whether it was a coincidence that North Korean rockets were similar to Russian ones, and whether it was significant that Pyongyang’s latest weapons test came soon after Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I’ll leave that for you to decide,” Shanahan responded, failing to confirm or deny any Russian involvement in North Korea’s weapons programs, which have been a major obstacle to ongoing diplomatic efforts on the peninsula.

North Korea tested long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons last week, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. The South Korean Defense Ministry said the test involved 240 mm and 300 mm multiple rocket launchers, as well as a new model of a tactical guide weapon. The range of the weapons tested was estimated at 43 to 149 miles, CNN noted.

The rockets bore a striking similarity to the advanced Russian Iskander missiles—a short-range system with a range of more than 150 miles—NPR explained. The test showed that North Korea is still developing new weapons despite ongoing peace talks with the U.S. and South Korea.

Marcus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korean missiles, told The Associated Press: “There are Russian technology fingerprints all over it.” He explained that the test does not necessarily mean North Korea is buying entire weapons systems directly from Russia, as Pyongyang could have ordered some parts from Russia and made certain components domestically.

The tests came amid a negotiation stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang. For all President Donald Trump’s boasts of a close relationship and diplomatic success with Kim, little of significance has been achieved since relations between the two nations unexpectedly began to thaw in 2018.

Progress on denuclearization of the Korena peninsula and sanctions relief for the North has stalled since the failure of a summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February. Nonetheless, Shanahan told Kilmeade that the White House’s North Korea strategy “hasn’t changed—it’s a diplomatic one.”

“But it’s about full denuclearization,” he added. “My job is to make sure that we’re prepared in the event diplomacy fails. That’s my focus with the military. There’s no change to our force posture, our force preparation and our readiness.”

The president downplayed the weapons test. “I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” he tweeted.

North Korea Russia missiles

This file photo shows people watching a television broadcast reporting on a North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station on September 15, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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