Syrian civil war: Assad regime 'buying chemical weapons materials' from North Korea


"North Korea has a sordid history of supplying rogue states like Syria with weapons of mass destruction technology for cash", Andrew C. Weber, formerly the top Pentagon official responsible for combating the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, said of the new findings.

The supplies include acid-resistant tiles that are used at facilities to produce chemical weapons.

Beyond fueling a conflict that has killed more than half a million people and left millions of others displaced, money allegedly received by North Korea for its weapons exports is believed to have helped fund its nuclear and missile programs.

The Syrian government is reported to have told the United Nations panel that the only North Koreans present in Syria are sports coaches and athletes.

North Korea is under global sanctions over its nuclear programme.

The recent United Nations report also indicated missile specialists from North Korea have been spotted at Syrian arms manufacturing centers.

The findings of United Nations experts cited in a New York Times report are consistent with well-documented past practices of both governments in evading worldwide controls via intricate smuggling networks, analysts said.

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Humanitarian aid has largely been unable to reach the people trapped in Eastern Ghouta where the fighting has been some of the fiercest in the civil war, leaving hundreds dead in the past 11 days.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry noted that despite numerous claims and accusations against Damascus regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, none of them has ever been proved to be true. The allegations come after new reports of chlorine gas being used by Syrian forces, which the government denies. The information was revealed in a leaked report on North Korea authored by a group of experts at the UN.

Syria's government had made an "unprecedented achievement by destroying all its chemical weapons in record time and in a manner that is irrevocable, although field conditions were extremely complex due to our war against terrorism", Aala said Wednesday. North Korean missile experts have been seen at the facility in Barzeh, but the Syrian government maintains its claims that SSRC is a civilian run research institution.

It is unclear when, or even whether, the report will be released.

The report details "substantial new evidence" about North Korea's dealings with Syria, dating back to 2008. Accusing Damascus, the United States then launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, taking the lives of about 20 people including both Syrian soldiers and civilians.

While Myanmar told the panel in 2015 that it only had "normal diplomatic ties" with the DPRK, it reported on July 26, 2017 that it expelled Kim Chol Nam, a DPRK diplomat "for acting on behalf or at the direction of KOMID".