Syria 'given chemical weapons supplies' by North Korea
North Korea has shipped supplies to the Syrian government that could be used to make chemical weapons, United Nations investigators have revealed.
The disclosure, in a confidential 200-page report seen by 'The New York Times', comes as the US and other countries have accused Syria of using chemical weapons on its own civilians, including a suspected chlorine gas attack in eastern Ghouta in the past few days.
The report indicates major flaws in international efforts to isolate both countries, and the new evidence could dampen efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table following a diplomatic detente at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The material provided by North Korea reportedly included acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers. Investigators also detailed sightings of North Korean technicians working at chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria.
The report appears to confirm fears Pyongyang may be funding its own weapons of mass destruction programme by trading technological expertise. It also supports suspicions since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011 that President Bashar al-Assad has been assisted by the North Korean regime.
The possible components were part of at least 40 previously unreported shipments from North Korea to Syria between 2012 and 2017 of prohibited ballistic missile parts and materials that could be used for civilian or military purposes.
The UN declined to comment on the report, written by a panel of eight experts tasked with checking North Korea's compliance with sanctions.
It may never be publicly released, but a spokesperson stressed the "over-arching message is that all member states have a duty and responsibility to abide by the sanctions that are in place."
Experts described the document as the most detailed account to date of efforts to circumvent sanctions intended to curb the military power of both countries. But they concluded it did not prove definitively there was current collaboration between North Korea and Syria on chemical weapons.
Hopes have been rising that talks between South and North Korea over the Olympics could be expanded to include the US and eventually lead to a breakthrough over Pyongyang's nuclear and weapons programme. US diplomat Joseph Yun told South Korean newswire Yonhap he remained "very hopeful" on the prospect of talks.
It was also revealed yesterday that Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-il used fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports to apply for visas to visit Western countries in the 1990s, five senior western European security sources told Reuters.