Russia Releases $9M In Frozen N.Korean Assets, Alleged To Be Helping Kim Skirt UN Sanctions

Russia-North Korea ties have continued to deepen amid the backdrop of the Ukraine war and corresponding US-led sanctions. Already it’s believed Pyongyang has provided Russia with huge shipments of missies and ammunition, especially artillery, likely shipped by train.

The New York Times reports Tuesday that the Russian government has released $9 million in frozen North Korean assets, following Kim Jong-Un’s delivering on arms for Moscow. While the Russian bank which cleared the release hasn’t been named, it’s believed to be $9 million out of a total $30 million which was frozen.

Russian media/AFP

The move is likely part of broader efforts to implement Pyongyang’s ultimate ‘wish list’ of lasting methods and banking ties to skirt UN sanctions, imposed over past banned nuclear weapons testing.

The NY Times writes, “In addition, a North Korean front company recently opened an account at another Russian bank, the intelligence officials say, evidence that Moscow may be helping Pyongyang get around U.N. sanctions that prohibit most banks from doing business with North Korea.”

North Korea has for years been almost completely isolated from the international banking system, and has been lashing out of late in response to increased US military drills on the peninsula, conducting missile tests on a near weekly basis.

The new bank account is held in South Ossetia, a self-proclaimed independent state in the Caucasus region that has close connections with Russia, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters,” the Times continues.

Moscow is still expected to move cautiously and not be too brazen over how it helps North Korea given it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. On this point, the NYT report observes:

For Russia, the financial transactions may be more palatable than supplying military expertise and nuclear and other technology.

Even though the two countries “could be friends with benefits now,” said Soo Kim, a former C.I.A. analyst on North Korea, their trust is not so great that Russia would “give away its valued secrets.”

Back in September, Kim Jong Un met with President Vladimir Putin in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, and even toured weapons and satellite facilities. 

Kim had issued statements at the time signaling enthusiastic backing for Russia’s resistance to NATO in the context of the war in Ukriane. “We are confident that the Russian army and people will win a great victory in the just fight to punish evil groups who pursue hegemony, expansion, and ambition,” Kim had said.

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