- REUTERS/Abed Kontar/File Photo
The United Nations is investigating claims that North Korea attempted to ship munitions – including chemical weapons – to the Assad regime in Syria.
According to a confidential UN report seen by the Reuters news agency, Kim Jong-Un’s government made two attempts to send munitions to the Middle East.
They were bound for an agency of the Syrian government in charge of its chemical weapons programme, according to independent experts cited in the report.
The document said that both shipments were intercepted by officials from UN member states.
It was not immediately clear where or when the interceptions took place, or exactly what was found.
The report said an expert panel is “investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea).”
One passage said a UN member state had “informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria.”
KOMID is the Korea Mining and Development Trading Company, which is North Korea’s main arms exporter. The state-owned enterprise has offices in multiple countries around the world, according to the US Treasury Department.
- Drew Angerer/Getty
Earlier this month the UN Security Council unanimously agreed on further sanctions on North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood, which threatened to slash the country’s annual export revenue by a third. They are meant to pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear missile programme.
The US on Tuesday also announced sanctions against 16 Russian and Chinese companies and individuals, accusing them of helping North Korea develop its nuclear programme.
The Russian government, an ally to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is also involved in Syria. Russia entered the Syrian war in September 2015, with a purported aim of targeting Islamic State militants “and other terrorists” in the country. Russian aircraft have caused some 1,900 civilian casualties, according to Airwars.
At least 470,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, which is well into its sixth year, according to the independent Syrian Center for Policy Research. The war has produced 4.8 million refugees and 6.1 million internally displaced people, it added.
Neither the UN nor the European Union have arms embargoes on Syria at the moment, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The EU implemented an arms embargo on Syria between 2011 and 2013, but it was lifted in June 2013 after EU states disagreed over supplying arms to anti-Assad rebel forces, SIPRI noted.