During a briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder asserted that if Pyongyang were to deploy troops to assist Russia in Ukraine, they would likely be used as expendable soldiers in the conflict. Ryder expressed skepticism about the North Korean military’s decision to participate, given the high casualties suffered by Russian forces in the illegal invasion.

Russia has relied on overwhelming numerical superiority to advance its military strategy in Ukraine, despite significant losses. The country has demonstrated the ability to rapidly replace frontline troops amidst ongoing hostilities.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty, obligating mutual military support in case of foreign aggression. While the pact does not explicitly reference the current conflict, there is speculation about North Korea potentially sending its military engineering units to assist in reconstruction efforts in occupied Ukrainian territories, reportedly for financial gain amid international sanctions.

North Korea has been a significant supplier of weapons to Russia since 2023, but it has not deployed substantial combat troops outside the Korean Peninsula. Ukrainian authorities have reported intercepting numerous North Korean ballistic missiles used by Russia in extensive attacks since the previous year, highlighting Pyongyang’s involvement in the conflict through arms shipments.