U.N. report links North Korea to Syria’s chemical weapons program

“We knew stuff was going on. We really wanted to up the game on chemical weapons programs, and we just weren’t able to get what we needed to do so."

February 28, 2018 14:09
2 minute read.
Syrian medical staff take part in training exercise to learn how to treat victims of chemical weapon

Syrian medical staff take part in a training exercise to learn how to treat victims of chemical weapons attacks, in a course organized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Gaziantep, Turkey. (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)


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North Korea has been shipping materials to the Syrian government that could be used for the production of chemical weapons, according to a secret UN report, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The report, which was written by a panel of experts, stated that the supplies, which included acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers, were part of at least 40 previously unreported shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017.

Additionally, North Korean missile experts were spotted inside Syria, working at known chemical weapons and missile facilities.

The UN report, which is more than 200 pages long, also emphasized the danger of such a cooperation between the two countries which would allow Syria to maintain its chemical weapons while providing North Korea with funding for its nuclear missile programs.

As reported by the New York Times, it is unclear when the report will be released; and the authors and members of the United Nations Security Counsel refused to comment. However, a former member of the UN panel of experts on North Korea, William Newcomb, called it "an important breakthrough."

“We knew stuff was going on,” Mr. Newcomb said to the New York Times. “We really wanted to up the game on chemical weapons programs, and we just weren’t able to get what we needed to do so.”

On Wednesday, a senior US disarmament official blamed Russia for violating its commitments as guarantor of the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile and preventing the Assad government from using them.

Robert Wood, US disarmament ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, told reporters in Geneva shortly before Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the forum: "Russia is is on the wrong side of history with regard to chemical weapons use in Syria."

Wood, when asked about a reported nexus of cooperation between North Korea and Syria, replied: "Clearly there has been a history of a relationship between North Korea and Syria with regard to missile activity, chemical weapons components."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov, addressing the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, responded that Syria has eliminated its chemical weapons stockpiles and placed them under international control, despite "absurd claims" against the Assad government.

The United States and its allies are "simply exploiting baseless allegations of toxic weapons use by Damascus as a tool of anti-Syrian political engineering."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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