North Korea May Be Aiding Syria's Deadly Gas Attacks On Civilians

It seems North Korea has, yet again, found a way to evade sanctions, as the U.N. suspects the hermit kingdom is sending supplies to Syria.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has allegedly been using chemical weapons on its own people since, at least, 2012 — and it appears North Korea might be helping him.

First a little background. Both the countries seem to share some common ground: They are led by dictators who have frequently defied the West as well as international law as far as banned weaponry is concerned. The two nations have a long history of military ties with each other and both have adopted a pariah status over the years, which appears to have further augmented the bond to the extent that they may be sharing raw material to manufacture deadly chemical weapons.

The unpublished report, drafted by the U.N. Panel of Experts, claims North Korea sent 40 shipments of prohibited missile parts and materials from 2012 to 2017, including acid-resistant tiles, valves and pipes to Syria. The tiles are reportedly being used to construct facilities where chemical weapons are produced.

The allegations come just days after reports emerged of chlorine gas being used by the Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta last week, a claim which the government continues to deny.

The fact that North Korea is already under international sanctions over its nuclear program, puts the country in an even more precarious position following the U.N. report.  

An assessment on North Korea's compliance with U.N. resolutions was also a part of the report.  A publicly available report, which came out in September 2017, said a group is "investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation" between Syria and North Korea.

Two U.N. members reportedly obstructed shipments heading to Syria, which the U.N. suspects came from North Korea’s main arms exporter as part of the contract with the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), a Syrian government agency. The latter has also allegedly paid North Korea through a number of front companies.

There hasn’t been a decision made on whether the U.N. will publish this report but a spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said to The New York Times, "I think the overarching message is that all member states have a duty and responsibility to abide by the sanctions that are in place."

The Syrian government has refuted the report, saying the only North Koreans they have in their country are athletes and sport coaches.

Syria has been repeatedly accused of using banned chemical weapons in their civil wars despite an agreement with the Chemical Weapons Convention, according to which the country declared it would destroy its chemical weapon stocks.

Amid the speculations, chlorine gas attacks were reported in Eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus this past Sunday. The victims showed symptoms such as eye irritation and difficulty breathing.  

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is further investigating the attacks. One of the few Western leaders who have spoken about the issue is U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who suggested if “inconvertible” evidence is discovered that Syrian government has used chemical weapons on civilians, then military action should be considered.

The unpublished U.N. report accentuates the potential dangers that will come subsequently. The supplies sent to Syria could result in the country hoarding chemical weapons, which, at the same time, would also provide North Korea with much-needed cash that could be used by the hermit kingdom to work toward their nuclear and ballistic goals.

The prerequisite to have potential talks with the U.S. is denuclearization, which is why not much ground has been gained with North Korea. This past Friday, the United States announced further stringent sanctions on North Korea in order to urge the reclusive state give up its nuclear and missile program.

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

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