Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) visit a construction site of the Angara rocket launch complex on September 13, 2023 in Tsiolkovsky, Russia.

South Korea’s defense minister said North Korea has been exchanging arms for food with Russia.Its factories are mostly at 30% capacity, but the ones making arms for Russia are at 100%, he said.North Korea has shipped 6,700 containers to Russia since August, he added.

North Korean weapons factories are “operating at full capacity” making arms and ammunition for Russia, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said on Monday.

“While North Korea’s arms factories operate at 30% capacity due to shortages of raw materials and power, certain factories are operating at full capacity, which primarily produces weapons and shells for Russia,” said Shin in a press briefing, per a translation by the Yonhap News Agency.

Shin also said North Korea has provided 6,700 containers to Russia since August.

That’s enough cargo space for 3 million rounds of 152 mm artillery shells or 500,000 rounds of 122 mm artillery shells, Shin said.

In exchange, Russia has been sending North Korea food and raw materials needed to create munitions, Shin said.

Overall, Moscow is shipping about 30% more goods to Pyongyang than it’s receiving from North Korea, Shin added.

Food makes up the bulk of Russia’s shipments, “which is believed to have stabilized food prices in North Korea, with other necessities also included,” Shin told reporters, per Yonhap.

Meanwhile, the US State Department estimates that North Korea has sent some 10,000 container shipments to Russia since September.

In a sanctions announcement on Friday, the State Department said it’s identified the stevedoring company running Russia’s Vostochny Port, which the US said has received 7,400 shipments of munitions and military equipment from North Korea.

Russia has, in the last three years, poured resources into its military manufacturing industry amid heavy losses in its stalled invasion of Ukraine.

And the war has forced Russian leader Vladimir Putin to “go cap in hand” to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for weapons, UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said in January.

Ukraine has also protested Russia’s receiving of supplies from North Korea, with Kyiv’s spy chief Kyrylo Budanov saying the war situation would have been “catastrophic” for Moscow had Pyongyang not stepped in.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has struggled to maintain its own ammunition and equipment stocks amid faltering US support from GOP lawmakers, who have blocked aid to Kyiv while demanding domestic border security measures.

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