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Home World N.Korea arming Syria with chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, secret UN report claims

N.Korea arming Syria with chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, secret UN report claims

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The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, holds up photographs of victims of a Syrian chemical attack in 2017. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

North Korea sent Syria more than 40 items used in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs in the five years from 2012-17, a leaked UN report has said.

The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea said its investigations into Pyongyang’s transfer of prohibited ballistic missile, conventional arms and dual use goods found the previously unreported shipments.

It said an unnamed UN member state also reported evidence that Myanmar received a range of conventional weapons from North Korea including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles in addition to ballistic missile systems. 

The US and other western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons in rebel-controlled areas, including recently in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, which Bashar Assad’s government denies.

The more than 200-page report to the UN security council, which diplomats expect to be made public in mid-March, details “substantial new evidence” about North Korea’s dealings with Syria, dating back to 2008.

According to an unidentified member state, North Korea’s Ryonhap-2 corporation was involved that year in a Syrian ballistic missile program, the report said.

More recently, it said, a visit by a technical delegation from North Korea in August 2016 “involved the transfer to Syria of special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons programs”.

That information came from another member state, which also reported that North Korean technicians “continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities at Barzeh, Adra and Hama”, the report said.

It quoted Syria’s reply to the panel about the reports: “There are no [North Korean] technical companies in Syria and the only presence of some [North Korean] individuals are confined in the field of sports under private individual contracts for training athletics and gymnastics.”

The UN experts added that they had not yet received a reply with documents supporting this claim and a list of all North Koreans who had travelled to Syria.

The panel said it also examined shipments interdicted by member states that were sent by the Chinese company Cheng Tong Trading Co to Damascus-based companies in 2016 and 2017.

The experts said 13 shipping containers were filled with “acid-resistant tiles” that would cover 5,000 sq metres, enough for a large-scale industrial project. One country’s analysis concluded that the tiles “were to be used for activities conducted at high temperatures”, the panel said, while another country said the material “can be used to build bricks for the interior walls of [a] chemical factory.”

The panel also said it continued its investigations into the activities of Ryu Jin, a senior official in Syria for the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation known as KOMID, who is on the UN sanctions blacklist. He listed his rank as a major general in a letter with an official proposal to Syrian major general Ali Salim of the Army Supply Bureau for “an air defence command and control system”, it said.

KOMID is North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.

The report said, among other activities, Ryu Jin shipped ball bearings and fibre-optic cables to Syria and earned €56,000 and €48,000 respectively, which was transferred through Tanchon Commercial bank.

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