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U.N. report accuses North Korea of supplying Syria’s chemical weapons program

Syrian children and adults receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift clinic in the rebel-held village of al-Shifuniyah in the Eastern Ghouta region on Sunday. A child died and at least 13 other people suffered breathing difficulties after a suspected chemical attack on the besieged Syrian rebel enclave, a medic and a monitor said. (Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images)

A United Nations report has accused Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime of supplying the Syrian government with the components needed to make chemical weapons.

The components were part of “at least 40 previously unreported shipments by North Korea to Syria between 2012 and 2017 of prohibited ballistic missile parts and materials that could be used for both military and civilian purposes,” according to the report in The New York Times.

The U.N. report has not been released to the public, but the Times was allowed to see it.

The New York Times added that “[t]he supplies from North Korea include acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers.” The piece also stated that “North Korean missile technicians have also been spotted working at known chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria, according to the report, which was written by a panel of experts who looked at North Korea’s compliance with United Nations sanctions.”

This repeated shipment of material for weapons is especially troubling since both North Korea and Syria are heavily sanctioned, and the U.S., U.S. Allies and the United Nations have all been surveilling the two countries for years.

This new information builds on an August 2017 report by the United Nations, which announced that U.N. member states had intercepted two shipments from North Korea to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been condemned by the international community in the past for using chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin gas, on his own people in an effort to quash an ongoing rebellion.

As recently as last week, Reuters report that several people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta were suffering from “symptoms consistent with chorine gas exposure.” It’s not clear from the report whether the United Nations suspects that North Korean components were used to carry out these specific attacks.

In 2013, after an earlier sarin gas attack on Ghouta that was reported to have killed 1,400, Assad publicly agreed to destroy his chemical weapons. But, according to the timeline from this United Nations report, this promise would have come toward the beginning of at least this portion of the chemical weapons components trade relationship with North Korea.

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