Is The Syrian Civil War Backed by North Korea?

Man with a child are seen in hospital in the besieged town of Douma Eastern Ghouta Damascus Syria

The reclusive state sent more than 40 unreported shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017, according to a panel of experts. The report also says that North Korean experts were seen on the plants for the production of missiles and chemical weapons in Syria.

Experts said that North Korea had long offered military supplies and weapons know-how around the world in exchange for cash.

The allegations come after fresh reports of chlorine gas attacks by Syrian forces in Eastern Ghouta.

It describes how North Korea uses a complex web of shell companies and sympathetic foreign citizens to gain access to worldwide financing, employs sophisticated cyber operations to steal military secrets and enlists its own diplomats in smuggling operations.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad denies this.

A United Nations diplomat told CNN earlier this year, North Korea made roughly $200 million in 2017 from exporting banned commodities, specifically coal, in flagrant violation of United Nations sanctions.

The report - yet to be released - said N Korean missile specialists had been seen at Syrian weapon-making centres.

William Newcomb, chairman of the United Nations panel of experts on North Korea from 2011 to 2014, said the report was "an important breakthrough".

In a letter to Syrian Major General Ali Salim of the Army Supply Bureau, the panel say Ryu makes an official proposal for "an air defence command and control system".

Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Hussam Edin Aala on Wednesday refuted the "false allegations" made by some countries against his government, saying, "Syria can not possibly be using chemical weapons because it very simply has none in its possession".

It comes just days after news of a chemical attack by the Syrian government against the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, during a 30-day UN-declared ceasefire.

The UN report stopped short of claiming definitive proof of current collaboration between North Korea and Syria on chemical arms, but it represented the most exhaustive accounting to date of efforts by the two governments to evade and flout sanctions meant to halt such cooperation.

"Now, it is the turn for the militants and their sponsors to act, militants entrenched there who still continue shelling Damascus, blocking aid deliveries and the evacuation of those wishing to leave", he added.

Lack of access to licit export markets may even encourage such countries to traffic in highly profitable black-market commodities like illegal weapons and drugs.

According to an unidentified member state, the North's Ryonhap-2 Corporation was involved that year in a Syrian ballistic missile program, the "maneuverable re-entry vehicle (MARV) Scud D (MD) project", the report said.

United Nations officials refused to comment on the contents of the paper and did not offer any indication of when it would be released.

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