North Korean missile technicians were reportedly spotted in Syria

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sits in an airplane as he guides a flight drill for the inspection of airmen of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 30, 2014. Reuters/KCNA

A new report suggests that North Korea has shipped items to Syria that could be utilised to generate chemical weapons. North Korean missile technicians were reportedly spotted working at chemical weapons facilities in Syria.

Valves, acid resistant tiles and thermometers are among the items the country shipped to the Syrian government, according to a report by expert investigators overseeing compliance with UN sanctions on Pyongyang, The New York Times reports.

The report outlines at least 40 unreported shipments of possible chemical weapons components made between 2012 and 2017. The experts who make up the panel are all from different countries possessing particular expertise in various areas such as weapons of mass destruction, customs controls and maritime transport. With a mandate provided to them by the Security Council, they look into potential sanctions violations by North Korea.

The news comes amid accusations that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons on civilians, which include recent attacks in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta. There have been allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has been using chemical weapons in attacks, including a sarin gas attack upon Khan Sheikhoun last year.

The report stresses the possible danger posed by any such trade between the two counties. The alleged trade could maintain Syria’s chemical weapons and provide North Korea with money to support its nuclear and missile programs. Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International Lynn Malouf said that the pact represented “a betrayal of humanity.” She argued that supplying any state with the means to produce such weapons is “utterly deplorable.”

For William Newcomb, whose profile includes being among the United Nations panel of experts on North Korea from 2011 to 2014, the report was “an important breakthrough.” It is unclear, however, if the report will be released.

United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday that he did not know about the report’s publication date. “I think the overarching message is that all member states have a duty and responsibility to abide by the sanctions that are in place,” he said when asked to comment about it, adding that “the last thing that we need in Syria are more weapons and, god forbid, more chemical weapons.”

Chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he has not seen the report from the experts who are investigating sanctions violations.

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