A delegation of North Koreans attended Russian arms fair Oboronexpo 2014 last week, a spokesperson for the arms fair’s secretariat told NK News on Tuesday.
The news confirms reports by Radio Free Asia’s Korean language service, which reported on Monday that a North Korean delegation arrived at the conference on Wednesday to take part in one of the world’s largest arms fairs in the Moscow suburb of Zhukovsky.
“I have no idea what they were buying,” the spokesperson told NK News in a phone call, “they bought tickets and attended”.
The delegation was “not government officials”, she insisted, but North Korean businessmen.
It is unknown whether the North Koreans purchased anything at the convention, but RFA Korea reported they also planned to participate in an event on machine production after Oboronexpo.
While North Korea would not be prohibited from attending the conference, buying anything would be a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University Aidan Foster Carter told NK News that while it was difficult to know exactly why North Koreans were in attendance, “presumably North Korea wants to keep up to date with what kit is available”.
“Also, we know from past seizures – Panama, Bangkok – that despite UN sanctions North Korea is still involved in arms deals,” he argued, “all manner of shady intermediaries exist in that business”.
The North Korean decision to attend comes amid ever-closer North Korea-Russia relations – last week Russian North Korea expert Leonid Petrov told NK News that the DPRK was “rejoicing the return of Cold War politics”.
Representatives of Russia and the DPRK signed an agreement last Friday on immigration rights for temporary workers of the two countries, following on from an agreement to strengthen ties and facilitate investment in June.
Oboronexpo 2014, which ran until Monday, hosted over 200 Russian defense companies as well as representatives from foreign businesses and governments from over 28 countries, including the United States, Germany, India, China, and Belarus.
The arms expo, which also ran in 2012, described its objectives in a pre-expo press release “to showcase the latest achievements of the companies of the military industrial complex in such areas as missiles and artillery, armored and military vehicles, unmanned multipurpose complexes, and communication systems”.
Image credit: Vitaly Kuzmin