Russia has already used ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea to attack Ukraine, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said at a press conference on Jan. 4.
As Russia has become more isolated since the beginning of the full-scale invasion and has increasingly depleted its preexisting supplies of military equipment, it has turned to countries like North Korea and Iran to replenish its stocks.
Unnamed U.S. officials previously told the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post that North Korea has provided Russia with launchers and several dozen ballistic missiles. Kirby’s statement is the first official report of Russia deploying these missiles.
Russian forces launched at least one of the North Korean-supplied missiles into Ukraine on Dec. 30, according to Kirby, and this missile appears to have landed in an open field in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Russia also used multiple North Korean missiles to strike Ukraine on Jan. 2, Kirby said, including as part of its overnight mass attack that killed five people and injured 130 more.
The White House official added the U.S. is still assessing the impact of the additional missiles.
Contrary to some speculation that Russia was running out of missiles, Russian forces launched some of their largest missile attacks against Ukraine at the end of December and early January.
The Pyongyang-provided missiles can reach targets 900 kilometers away, which is “a significant and concerning escalation in the North Korean support for Russia,” according to Kirby.
“We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches, and we anticipate Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.”
The U.S. assesses that in return for supplying the ballistic missiles, North Korea seeks from Russia fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment, and other advanced military technologies.
Washington confirmed increased weapons and ammunition transfers from North Korea to Russia following a meeting between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September.
South Korean intelligence reports claim that North Korea has delivered more than a million shells to Russia.