Has North Korea been sending chemical agents or other arms to Syria, despite sanctions against both countries? New evidence collected by the United Nations says yes — after two shipments were intercepted between North Korea’s primary arms dealer and a Syrian government agency that has long overseen the country’s chemical weapons programs. Although sanctions prohibit Syria from having chemical weapons after numerous instances of chlorine and sarin attacks, this doesn’t mean that the Syrian government isn’t still interested in accessing those types of arms. Now the UN is investigating what exactly it is that North Korea has been sending to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre.
The UN report says two member countries intercepted shipments from the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to Syria’s SSRC in the past six months. KOMID is a corporation blacklisted by the UN Security Council and, contrary to its name, has as much to do with arms deals and ballistics as mining equipment. Syria was using front companies to receive the shipments, which the UN picked up on because those same companies were on the receipts of past “prohibited item transfers” from KOMID.
From the initial report, it looks like North Korea and Syria might be helping one another navigate their unique sanctions. North Korea is banned from pursuing ballistics as it tries to ramp up its nuclear and missile programs. The Syrian government is cut off from chemical weapons after deadly attacks against civilians. This wouldn’t be the first time North Korea and Syria partnered up. In the 1980s, Syria and Egypt gave North Korea a boost by selling off old Soviet missiles. Nor is this the first time North Korea has been involved in moving contraband — the Ukraine has been implicated as a possible source for North Korea’s sudden nuclear missile advancements.
Now it’s up to the United Nations to look into whether Syria is getting help from North Korea on its Scud and missile defense projects, what North Korea might be getting in return, and what, if anything, this might have to do with that February nerve agent attack against Kim Jong Un’s brother in Malaysia.