North Korea has been shipping supplies to Syria that could be used to produce chemical weapons, a United Nations expert panel has found.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that North Korea had sent acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers to Syria. The information was revealed in a leaked report on North Korea authored by a group of experts at the UN.
North Korean scientists visited Syria in 2016 and 2017, after the chemical weapons supplies had been sent to the war-torn country. The technicians stayed at military facilities controlled by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and, according to the report, the missile experts may still be operating in Barzeh, Adra and Hama.
The illicit shipments are part of a steady stream of weapons-related sales by North Korea to Syria and to the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran, estimated by some experts to be worth several billion dollars a year.
The details come just days after activists in Ghouta reported a suspected poison gas attack. The United States and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas including recently in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, which the Syrian regime denies.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) opened an investigation on Sunday into attacks in the enclave to determine whether banned munitions had been used.
The United Nations Security Council has required North Korea since 2006 to cease export of arms and related material as well as items relevant to nuclear, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction-related programs and to fully abandon all weapons of mass destruction programs.
A spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said they were closely watching North Korea’s attempts to evade UN sanctions. “We are racing to intercept North Korea’s violation of UN resolution and putting all diplomatic efforts with cooperation with the international community,” she said.
An earlier UN report, whose contents were leaked last August, found that two shipments of chemical weapons from North Korea to Syria had been intercepted earlier in the year.
In 2007, Israel reportedly destroyed a Syrian plutonium producing reactor that had been built with the help of North Korea.
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