According to a United Nations report, North Korea may have supported Syria’s chemical weapons use as it defied sanctions and sent the Assad regime supplies like acid-resistant tiles, valves, and thermometers.
The report, which didn’t claim to show continuing collaboration between the two, said those items came in at least 40 unreported shipments between 2012 and 2017. According to The New York Times, those shipments included prohibited ballistic missile parts.
And according to one U.N. member state, North Koreans actively worked at Syrian facilities, with missile technicians on-site in three different locations.
The U.N.’s report gave a more detailed account of the nations’ efforts to circumvent sanctions that the international community imposed.
“We knew stuff was going on,” William Newcomb, former chairman of the U.N. panel of experts said. “We really wanted to up the game on chemical weapons programs, and we just weren’t able to get what we needed to do so.”
The report notes a lack of “political will, international coordination, prioritization, and resource allocation” necessary for implementing the sanctions.
It also criticized Russia and China for not fully enforcing the sanctions and detailed North Korea’s use of shell companies and foreign citizens to finance its operations.
As the Times noted, North Korea has allegedly provided Syria with chemical weapons support since the 1990s. According to Bruce Bechtol, a former analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Syrian relationship “has been a boon for the North Korean military-industrial complex.”
U.S. officials have already expressed concern that North Korea blunted international sanctions’ blows by engaging in illicit trade.
In December, President Donald Trump called China out for allegedly trading oil with North Korea:
Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2017
“Caught RED HANDED,” Trump said in reference to satellite images purporting to show illicit trade between the two countries.