North Korea has been caught delivering shipments to a Syrian government agency in charge of the country’s chemical weapons program, according to a confidential United Nations (U.N.) report on North Korea’s sanctions violations.
The report, submitted to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, was compiled by a panel of independent U.N. experts and revealed that two shipments to the Syrian agency had been intercepted in the past six months. It did not specify, however, where the interceptions happened or what the shipments contained.
“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts stated in the report, adding that “two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria” at the behest of KOMID, Pyongyang’s major arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
The United States and Russia brokered a deal in 2013 requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles and the organization overseeing the elimination process last year declared the job complete. Weapons inspectors and diplomats, however, remain unconvinced that the program has been eliminated and suspect that Syria secretly maintained and developed new chemical weapons capability.
On April 4, 2017, a Syrian aircraft released toxic sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Syria. More than 97 civilians were killed, including 11 children and over 557 were injured. According to a special report by Reuters last week, at least one major sarin gas attack and over dozens of chlorine attacks have taken place since 2013, claiming the lives of over 200 people and injuring hundreds more.
The U.S. Mission to the U.N. released a statement on Monday, citing the atrocity, saying that “Assad has not relented his reign of terror and has continued to use chemical weapons in his attacks against his own people…. Through our previous actions and warnings to Assad, the United States has conveyed the grave seriousness with which we view chemical weapons use. We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons, and those responsible for their use must be held accountable.”
The Syrian regime’s lack of cooperation with international inspectors and the manipulation of information has sparked criticism among experts who fear it could set a precedent for other countries in violation of U.N. prohibitions, including Iran which has come under fire by the Trump administration for violating the spirit of the nuclear agreement.
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