• Satellite images show a three-car set of enclosed railcars crossed the 800-meter-long Tumangang Friendship Bridge
  • The Tumangang Friendship Bridge is the only land link between the two countries
  • Report says it is not the only train that has crossed over in recent months

Amid Washington's accusations that Pyongyang was involved in the covert supply of arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine, a media report based on satellite imagery said a train crossed from North Korea into Russia on Friday afternoon in what was considered to be the first traffic to be observed on the route in several years.

On Friday morning at 10.24 a.m. local time (0124 UTC), satellite images showed a three-car set of enclosed railcars on one of the tracks alongside the freight handling area just inside North Korea, according to a report by 38North.

The freight yard at the border in North Korea, which is highly secured with a series of watch posts, consists of a new set of platforms along with storage buildings separated from the rest of the rail yard. The report said, although the freight-handling area was rebuilt and expanded in the second-half of 2021, it has not been in use since.

Satellite images at 1.10 p.m. local time (0410 UTC) showed the same railcars behind a locomotive inside Russian territory near the Korea-Russia Friendship House border crossing station, about 200 meters from the end of the 800-meter-long Tumangang Friendship Bridge (Korea-Russia Friendship Bridge).

The railway bridge is the only land link between the two countries.

According to 38North, just over an hour later, at 2.29 p.m. local time (0529 UTC), the locomotive and three railcars were visible on tracks at Khasan Station, which was located approximately two km (approx. 1.2 miles) from the border inside Russia.

At Khasan Station, the satellite picture showed three smaller covered railcars or containers on flatcars, parked on an adjacent track alongside the newly arrived train. The report added the smaller railcars on the Russian side have been in position since the first image of the day was captured at 10.24 a.m. local time.

Another recent report by 38North pointed out rail interconnection between the two countries was not simple, considering that while North Korea used the international standard 1,435-mm track gauge (distance between rails), Russia used a 1,520-mm gauge. Given that trains of both the countries cannot run on each other's tracks, a dual track has been built along the rail line that has rails spaced at both the North Korean and Russian gauges.

Although this was the first train observed on satellite imagery traveling between North Korea and Russia, the 38North report said it was not the only train that had crossed over in the recent months. Russia's Customs Agency said Wednesday over two dozen horses were sent to North Korea in the first known rail shipment between the countries in nearly three years; however, 38North said the shipment was not captured by satellites.

While the report pointed out that, from the satellite images, it was not possible to say if a transfer of material was underway, it came at a significant time when Washington has accused North Korea of covertly shipping a "significant number" of artillery shells to Russia.

Without specifying the mode of transportation and declining to give a specific estimate on the quantity of ammunition being sent, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. believes North Korea was "trying to make it appear as though they're being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa."

A U.S. intelligence finding had earlier said that facing a severe shortage of military equipment in Ukraine, Russia was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. Pyongyang has denied the U.S. allegation, terming them as "rumors" spread by "hostile forces" aimed at tarnishing the country's image.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un pose for a photo during their meeting in Vladivostok