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Milley talks about North Korean arm

by LOLITA C. BALDOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | September 17, 2023 at 3:27 a.m.
FILE - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, July 18, 2023. The top American military officer says North Korea may be able to boost Russias supply of artillery munitions for the war in Ukraine. But Army Gen. Mark Milley says that's not likely to make a big difference. He made the comments as he arrived in Norway for NATO meetings that began Saturday, Sept. 16, and will focus in part on the conflict. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

OSLO, Norway -- North Korea may be able to boost Russia's supply of artillery munitions for the war in Ukraine, but that is not likely to make a big difference, the top American military officer said as he arrived in Norway for NATO meetings that began Saturday and will focus in part on the conflict.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the recent meeting in Russia between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably lead North Korea to provide Soviet-era 152mm artillery rounds to Moscow. But he said it was not yet clear how many or how soon.

"Would it have a huge difference? I'm skeptical of that," Milley told reporters traveling with him. He said that while he does not want to play down the weapons assistance too much, "I doubt that it would be decisive."

Foreign governments and experts have speculated that Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.

Milley and the other defense chiefs from NATO countries are meeting at the Holmenkollen ski area on the edge of Oslo over the next several days to discuss support for Ukraine and other regional defense issues. From there, Milley will attend the monthly meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany on Tuesday. That group, led by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is the main international forum for drumming up military support for Ukraine.

The NATO meetings come as Ukraine forces are making slow progress breaking through Russian battle lines in a counteroffensive that has not moved as quickly or as well as initially hoped. Kyiv's leaders are lobbying for a new round of advanced weapons, including longer range missiles.

Adm. Rob Bauer of the Netherlands, the chair of the NATO Military Committee, said Saturday at the opening of the meeting that history will show "Ukraine has transformed modern warfare and they are moving forward every day. Every success is one step closer to victory." He said Russian forces "keep losing more and more ground, and the whole of Russia is suffering under the impact of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation."

Milley said there is a continued need for more weapons and equipment in Ukraine and that allies and partners will be discussing how to address that. He said he believes there continues to be broad, bipartisan support in the United States and the U.S. Congress for the aid.

Later in the day, Bauer acknowledge that strains on military weapons production are increasing prices and decreasing the amount of ammunition and other stocks that countries have on hand. He said that while NATO is not organizing the donations, it is an issue that concerns alliance members.

"When they think about giving away weapons or ammunition, they have to think ... what is the risk that I take against my own readiness?" he told reporters.

President Joe Biden has proposed a package of $13.1 billion more in military aid and $8.5 billion for humanitarian support. Conservative Republicans are pushing for broad federal spending cuts and some of those allied with former President Donald Trump are specifically looking to stop money to Ukraine.

The issue will be a prime topic in Washington in the coming week when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the White House and Capitol Hill during his stop in the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

In Norway, the NATO chiefs of defense will follow up their meeting Saturday with a smaller gathering today of about a dozen Western and Indo-Pacific military leaders that Milley said will focus on lessons learned in the Ukraine war and how they can be applied to the Pacific. Milley said the group will include defense chiefs from Britain, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Russian attacks against Ukraine have continued throughout the North Korean leader's visit, with two people killed and two more wounded during shelling on villages in Ukraine's northeastern Kherson region on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said. Five more people were hurt in a separate rocket attack later in the day on an industrial region in Kharkiv city, Ukraine's prosecutor's office announced.

Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk region, said that five civilians were killed Saturday as artillery hit the residential buildings and infrastructure in the region. A 30-year-old man died during shelling on the Russian village of Plekhovo close to the Ukrainian border, the governor of Russia's Kursk region wrote on social media.

Information for this article was contributed by Katie Marie Davies of The Associated Press.

  photo  Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un examine a launch pad during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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