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Beyond Parallel: Surge in N. Korea-Russia Border Rail Traffic Suggests Arms Supply

Beyond Parallel: Surge in N. Korea-Russia Border Rail Traffic Suggests Arms Supply

A U.S. think tank says that satellite imagery indicates a dramatic increase in rail traffic along the border between North Korea and Russia.

According to Beyond Parallel, a North Korea monitoring website operated by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS), satellite imagery of the North’s Tumangang rail facility at the border with Russia captured on Thursday shows an unprecedented number of freight rail cars, totaling approximately 73.

Beyond Parallel said this level of rail traffic is far greater than what it observed at the facility during the past five years, even compared to pre-COVID-19 levels and that 20 rail cars were spotted at this facility at most in the past. 

Authors of the latest report, Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Jennifer Jun noted that starting five days after the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 13, there has been a gradual but steady increase in the number of freight boxcars at the Tumangang Rail Facility located on the North-Russia border. 

They said that given Kim and Putin discussed some military exchanges and cooperation at their summit, the dramatic increase in rail traffic likely indicates Pyongyang’s supply of arms and munitions to Moscow.

But they added the extensive use of tarps to cover the shipping crates, containers and equipment makes it impossible to conclusively identify what is seen at the rail facility. 

The report also said that conversely, as the level and type of rail activity at Russia’s Khasan rail facility is nowhere near as complex or industrial-related as that at Tumangang, it is too early to conclusively identify the direction of the rail cars, and that additional images will be necessary to make such a determination.

[Photo : YONHAP News]

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