North Korea Tells U.S. to 'Keep Its Mouth Shut' as It Denies Arming Russia

North Korea Russia Arms Ukraine War U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured beside several military officials in this photo released by state media on April 17, 2022. A North Korean official on Wednesday accused the U.S. of engaging in an attempt at "tarnishing" North Korea's reputation, while denying that the country had sent arms to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. STR/KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has warned the U.S. to "keep its mouth shut" after denying that it exported weapons to aid Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Recent Russian military supply difficulties have forced Moscow to purchase millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea, according to a New York Times report citing declassified U.S. intelligence this month. North Korea has openly sided with Russia during the war, being the only country besides Syria and Russia to officially recognize the independence of the pro-Russian breakaway "republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk.

On Wednesday, an official described as the "vice director general of the General Bureau of Equipment of the Ministry of National Defence" for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) issued a statement condemning any suggestion that Russia was being sent North Korean arms as a U.S. attempt at "tarnishing" North Korea's image, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"We take this opportunity to make clear one thing," the North Korean official stated. "We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them. It is not sure from where the rumor originated which the U.S. is spreading, but it is aimed at tarnishing the DPRK's image."

"We condemn the U.S. for thoughtlessly circulating the rumor against the DPRK to pursue its base political and military aim," the official continued. "And we warn the U.S. to stop making reckless remarks ... and to keep its mouth shut."

Despite the denial of arms sales, the official insisted that "not only the development, production, possession of military equipment, but also their export and import are the lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state," arguing that "nobody is entitled to criticize" any such exports.

The United Nations Security Council was also dismissed for issuing "unlawful" resolutions banning North Korea from importing or exporting weapons. The North Korean official claimed that the sanctions were "cooked up by the U.S. and its vassal forces."

Shortly after the report by The New York Times on the purported arms sale was published, U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a briefing that "the Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use in Ukraine."

"This purchase indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages due in part because of export controls and sanctions," Patel said during a September 6 briefing. "Another example of the lines of efforts that we have to hold Russia accountable."

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby later walked back the claim that the sale was already moving forward, calling it a "potential purchase" while saying that the U.S. did not "have any indication that the purchase has actually occurred."

Russia has described the U.S. intelligence finding as "fake" and denied purchasing any arms from North Korea.

Newsweek has reached out to the State Department and the White House for comment.