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US Intel says North Korean missile debris identified in Russian attack on Kharkiv: report

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Analysis of Russian ballistic missiles has confirmed North Korean-produced debris throughout Ukraine, according to an unclassified report released by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). 

The DIA has used open-source imagery to confirm debris found after the Jan. 2 attack on Kharkiv, the second-biggest city in Ukraine and the biggest city near the border with Russia, derived from a DPRK short-range missile.

The report demonstrates how the relationship between North Korea and Russia continues to evolve and strengthen as it seeks to improve public understanding of this vital national security issue. Russia has fired as many as 50 North Korean-made short range ballistic missiles, but as many as half of the missiles lost their programmed trajectories and exploded in the air, according to Reuters

Russia and North Korea continue to deny any arms deal has occurred, as it would violate an arms embargo on North Korea. 

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President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting in Russia on Sept. 13, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The DIA report used photos that indicate the missile debris in Ukraine has the same forward motor section and aft motor sections as those shown in images by the North Korean press agency of its leader Kim Jong Un touring a missile factory and reviewing recently-completed missiles. 

The analysis also compared the cable tray – used to run wires from the front of the missile to the tail section – and the handling ring connectors, which are used to lift and move the missile. 

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North Korea Rocket

The forward motor section from a North Korean system, left, matches the physical characteristics shown in two images of missile debris on the right. (Defense Intelligence Agency)

The report’s publication coincides with another North Korean missile salvo demonstration, which fired at least 10 short-range ballistic missiles off the country’s east coast on Thursday, according South Korea’s military. The missiles appeared to land outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. 

Russia Ukraine missiles

(Defense Intelligence Agency)

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said all missiles fired in the recent salvo appeared to be the same type and were likely destined for export to Russia. 

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Ukraine Putin Missiles

The cable tray and handling ring connectors’ proportions from the North Korean state media image, left, are identical to the cable tray and handling ring connectors shown in the missile debris from the Jan. 2 Kharkiv attack on the right. (Defense Intelligence Agency)

North Korea started negotiating with Russia to sell millions of rounds of shells and rockets to Russia in September 2022, as supplies started to dwindle and Russian President Vladimir Putin realized the conflict would go on for far longer than he had planned or hoped. The first shipments of North Korean weapons reportedly arrived in November 2022, with the mercenary Wagner forces taking the supplies. 

From there, North Korean support for Russia extended into the United Nations, recognizing Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia had used as a pretense to invade the rest of Ukraine. 

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North Korea allegedly provided ammunition to Russia in late summer of 2023, and by the end of the year Russia started using North Korean ballistic missiles, attacking targets where dozens of civilians have been killed or wounded, according to Kyodo News. 

In return, Russia in March this year vetoed the renewal of a U.N. committee panel that investigates North Korean violations of Security Council resolutions. 

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