North Korea is reportedly supplying chemical weapons to Syria

August 22, 2017, 6:22am

A confidential U.N. report has claimed that North Korea is supplying chemical weapons to the Syrian government. The memo, seen by Reuters on Monday, alleges that two shipments from the hermit kingdom headed to a Syrian government agency were intercepted in the last six months.

The 37-page report, submitted to the U.N. Security Council this month, does not give specific details about when the shipments were intercepted or where, and contains no information about what exactly was being transported. The U.N. did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the contents of the report.

The shipments were apparently destined for Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), an entity that has overseen the country’s chemical weapons program since the 1970s. The supplies came from the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, described as Pyongyang’s key arms dealer when it was blacklisted in 2009 by the U.N. Security Council. Just last year, two of the organization’s representatives in Syria were also blacklisted.

The confidential report also mentions an ongoing investigation into the use of a nerve agent called VX — classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction — in the death of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother Kim Jong Nam in February.

North Korea is one of only six countries not to have signed or acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and is believed to have a large stockpile of chemical agents, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative. In April, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed that Pyongyang might be capable of launching missiles equipped with the nerve agent sarin, though he failed to give any evidence to back up his claim.

While North Korea has made no commitment to rid itself of chemical weapons, Syria agreed to destroy its stockpile in 2013. Despite this, there have been repeated claims by diplomats and weapons inspectors that Bashar Assad’s government continues to hold — and use — nerve agents like sarin and chlorine gas.

In April, the U.S. government fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base near Homs in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 civilians, including children. President Assad has repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons.