In an alarming report from CNN, North Korea has been sending Syria “acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers” – all of which could be used for chemical weapons.
This information was contained in a report by a United Nations panel of experts and relayed by an unnamed diplomat from the UN Security Council.
The news is especially troubling given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s long-held association with chemical warfare – particularly against his own people.
Though Assad’s presidency began with the release of hundreds of political prisoners and hopes of true reform and modernization during the “Damascus Spring,” that hope proved fleeting.
For nearly seven years, Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war with Assad and his allies fighting to retain control against a variety of opposition groups. Early in the conflict, Assad was suspected of using chemical weapons in a fatal attack that killed hundreds. This came not long after United States President Barack Obama had warned that by doing so, Syria would be crossing a “red line.”
Though Assad maintains that he hasn’t used chemical weapons, a UN fact-finding mission has confirmed the use of sarin gas.
In addition to concerns about how this may impact the ongoing Syrian Civil War, by sending those supplies, North Korea is in violation of UN sanctions preventing them from exporting materials for weapons. Further, it’s possible that North Korean scientists are operating within Syria – also a violation of UN sanctions instructing them to “fully abandon all weapons of mass destruction programs.”
Disregarding UN sanctions is nothing new for North Korea. They’ve been banned from exporting a number of goods but, by at least one account, have pocketed upwards of $200 million by doing so. A great deal of that was coal. Obviously funneling supplies for chemical weapons would be a far worse breach of those sanctions.