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US fears North Korean military action, create chaos before election: report

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North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
VLADIMIR SMIRNOV/ Getty Images

  • US officials fear North Korean military action ahead of the US election, NBC News reported.
  • Senior officials told the outlet that such a move could be encouraged by Vladimir Putin.
  • North Korea and Russia have formed close military ties in recent years.

US officials are preparing for potential North Korean military action — possibly encouraged by Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the run-up to the US election in November, NBC News reported, citing six senior US officials.

Such a move could be designed to create chaos in another part of the world as the election process ramps up, they said.

“We have no doubt that North Korea will be provocative this year. It’s just a matter of how escalatory it is,” one US intelligence official added.

Following the NBC News report, a campaign spokesperson for Donald Trump said, “The only ‘October surprise’ will be the look of shock” among reporters when Trump is reelected.

The officials’ warning comes ahead of a likely meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and Putin, which the Kremlin announced earlier this week was “being prepared.”

“President Putin has an active invitation for an official visit to North Korea. The visit is being prepared. We will announce the dates of the trip in due course,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, French news agency AFP reported.

Russia and North Korea have developed closer relations since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

For its part, North Korea has sent munitions to Moscow, ostensibly to help Putin’s forces in their war against Ukraine, but also to take advantage of the opportunity to test its equipment on the battlefield, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

In return, North Korea “expects Russia to provide advanced weapons systems and technological know-how to significantly strengthen its defense, nuclear, and space programs,” the think tank said.

The six US officials also told NBC News that the Biden administration was concerned that the relationship could lead to significant developments in Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, one official said that China likely does not want instability in the region, and Russia might, therefore, hesitate to get involved ahead of the US election.

Nevertheless, Rachel Minyoung Lee, a Senior Fellow with the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center, expressed concern that North Korea’s strengthening ties with Russia could “embolden” Kim to conduct more aggressive military or diplomatic action in the coming years.

North Korea’s new “tactical nuclear attack submarine” at its launch ceremony in 2023.
KCNA via REUTERS

North Korea has already sent a significant amount of military aid to Russia.

By November 2023, one South Korean lawmaker said North Korea had sent Moscow more than 1 million artillery shells to bolster its war effort.

But earlier this month, the office of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Andriy Kostin, told Reuters that North Korean-supplied weapons appeared to have a high failure rate.

“About half of the North Korean missiles lost their programmed trajectories and exploded in the air; in such cases the debris was not recovered,” Kostin’s office said, citing their examination of debris from 21 of around 50 North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles launched by Russia between late December and late February.

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