North Korea says US and allies' criticism of its ties with Russia 'distorted'

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Saturday it was the "steadfast will" of Pyongyang to expand ties with Russia, criticising a recent condemnation by the United States and its allies on Pyongyang's suspected arms deliveries to Russia as politicised and distorted.

North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui denounced military cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and said Pyongyang's relations with Moscow will act as a "powerful strategic" element if security in the region is endangered.

The United States, South Korea and Japan on Thursday strongly condemned the suspected supply of arms and military equipment by North Korea to Russia, saying they had confirmed "several" deliveries of such weapons.

Russia and North Korea have denied that arms are being transferred from the North for use in Russia's war against Ukraine.

"If they were curious to prove that the specific sphere of cooperation between the DPRK and Russia posed a 'threat' to international peace and security, they should have to clarify beforehand why their triangular military alliance is not regarded as a threat to regional peace and security," Choe said in a statement carried by the North's KCNA news agency.

The United States, South Korea and Japan have been stepping up trilateral security cooperation to counter the North's growing nuclear and missile threats

North Korea and Russia pledged closer military cooperation when their leaders met in September in Russia's far east. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month and discussed implementing the agreements reached at the summit.

"It is the steadfast will and stand of the DPRK to comprehensively expand and develop the bilateral relations with the Russian Federation," Choe said, adding that their ties will reach a "new higher phase through full implementation of the agreements." DPRK are the initials of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi, Ju-min Park; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)