Chemical Weapons In Syria Might Be Linked To North Korea

A United Nations report says North Korea is likely sending chemical weapon supplies and technology to the Syrian regime.
Posted at 2:33 PM, Feb 27, 2018

Reports of chlorine gas attacks in Syria's eastern Ghouta region are the latest in a growing pile of evidence that the regime might still be using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians. If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does still have chemical weapons, he likely has North Korea to thank.

North Korea's nuclear weapons program tends to generate the most global concern, but the country also runs a sizable chemical weapons operation. A 2012 estimate calculated the North Korean regime had between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons — the third-largest such stockpile in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia.

Some of those weapons might not stay in the North. Since the 1990s, the Hermit Kingdom has been accused of shipping chemical weapons materials and technology to regimes in Egypt, Iran, Libya and Syria.

Most recently, a United Nations report reviewed by The New York Times detailed 40 prohibited military shipments between North Korea and Syria from 2012 to 2017. Some of those shipments had components used to make chemical weapons.

The alleged weapons smuggling could be part of North Korea's larger effort to flout harsh boycotts. A previous U.N. draft report found the North exported $200 million in commodities in violation of sanctions.

The U.S. recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on ships and companies suspected of helping North Korea skirt restrictions. But without similarly strong enforcement from nations like China and Russia, it's tough to effectively implement international sanctions.

As for Syria's alleged chemical weapon use, officials in France and the U.K. have threatened to carry out airstrikes against the Assad regime if firm evidence of chemical weapons use is found.