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April 14, 2018
North Korea a key factor in Syrian Chemical Weapons program
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North Korea a key factor in Syrian Chemical Weapons program

By  Lamont Colucci

A new U.N. report identifies 40 “previously unreported shipments” sent between 2012 and 2017 from North Korea to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre — the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons.

The report shows that the North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development.

This evidence contradicts Syria’s promise in 2013 to  abandon its chemical weapons program by agreeing with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118. At the time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the resolution as a “strong, enforceable, precedent-setting” effort that showed how diplomacy “can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war.”

The report issued, last month, is taking on new significance as President Trump works to gather international support and for action against Syria in response to it claims was the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. The U.S. is also in “detailed” talks to arrange a meeting between Trump and North Korea’s President, Kim Jong-un.

State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said, “Whether we like it or not, there are countries around the world that are cheaters [but that] doesn’t mean that we can’t deal with them.”

The U.N. report is not surprising. Substantial ties between Damascus and Pyongyang dated to the 1960’s when North Korean pilots assisted the Syrian Air Force and when then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, imported North Korean experts and armaments. North Korean pilots and other military “advisers” fought with Syria against Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

North Korea has also played a role in Syria’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

In 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. According to news reports first from NHK, at least ten North Koreans were killed in that attack.

The U.N. report also identified other close ties between the two governments, including how the sale of weapons are facilitated by two North Korean front companies used to avoid sanctions, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) and Glocom. An official U.N. reports states, “KOMID representatives in the Syrian Arab Republic have also been importing military goods via commercial air cargo services and, in that regard, attempted in July 2016 to import military communications antennas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from Glocom” [another front com

North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold. The North Korean regime seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons and it also believes that focus on the Assad regime draws American attention from East Asia. Finally, the armaments trade provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell.

“The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy,” said Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh, according to a Syrian news agency. “The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

The UN report was released before the apparent chemical attack this past weekend on Douma, the final town in the Eastern Ghouta region still in the possession of anti-Assad rebels.

The attack and the UN report make clear that Syria rather than abandoning its chemical weapon and ballistic missile aspirations during its ongoing civil war has continued to develop its capacity regarding weapons of mass destruction.