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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

North Korea is helping develop Syria's chemical weapons programme, UN says

The UN said North Korea is flouting sanctions by exporting coal, iron, steel and other banned commodities, earning nearly $200 million (Dh734.5m) in revenue in 2017

This photo taken on July 29, 2017 shows people watching as coverage of an ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang. Kim Won-jin / AFP
This photo taken on July 29, 2017 shows people watching as coverage of an ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang. Kim Won-jin / AFP

The UN found evidence of military co-operation by North Korea to develop Syria’s chemical weapons programmes.

According to a panel of experts, both Syria and Myanmar continue to work with North Korea’s main arms exporter, KOMID, which is on the UN’s sanctions blacklist.

Between 2012 and 2016, there were more than 40 previously unreported shipments from North Korea to front companies for Syria’s Scientific Studies Research Council (CERS) — which is a key institute for the country’s chemical programme.

The UN report released on Friday said there was “substantial new evidence” pertaining to Pyongyang’s military co-operation with Damascus, including at least three visits by North Korean technicians to Syria in 2016.

One North Korean technical delegation in August 2016 involved the “transfer of special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons programmes”, the report said.

“Technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities at Barzei, Adra and Hama,” a member-state, which was not named, told the panel.

Syria denied co-operation with North Korea on their chemical weapons programmes, saying that the only experts it was hosting from the country were involved in sports.

Meanwhile, the report said the North Korea was providing Myanmar with “ballistic missile systems … in addition to a range of conventional weapons, including rocket launches and surface-to-air missiles”.

The UN said that North Korea is flouting sanctions by exporting coal, iron, steel and other banned commodities, earning nearly $200 million (Dh734.5m) in revenue in 2017.

North Korean diplomats, in particular trade representatives, continue to provide logistical support for arms sales and help organise exchanges for military technicians, it said.

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While sanctions have been significantly broadened, this "expansion of the regime is yet to be matched by the requisite political will" to implement the measures, the experts said.

The panel said 2018 offered a "critical window of opportunity before a potential miscalculation with disastrous implications for international peace and security."

North Korea "continued to export almost all the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating nearly $200 million in revenue between January and September 2017", said the report.

Coal shipments were delivered to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam by ships using "a combination of multiple evasion techniques, routes and deceptive tactics”.

Last year, the Security Council adopted a series of resolutions to tighten and expand exports bans aimed at cutting off revenue to North Korea's military programmes.

The US led the push for tough economic sanctions after North Korea's sixth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches that raised fears that the US mainland could soon be within reach.

Seven ships have been barred from ports worldwide for violating UN sanctions with coal and petroleum transfers, but the experts said much more must be done to confront "these rampant illicit activities”

The panel found that North Korea "is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries, and the international banking system”.