It is the way two North Korean chemical arms shipments were intercepted en route to Syria, where the US in the past month or so made a strike on a major Syrian air force base after the army used chemical weapons on the war front.
The Syrians claimed that radical groups fighting President Bashir al Assad made that attack and not the Syrian army as the US had declared, which the US ignored.
It is only now that activities between Syria and North Korea are coming to light, with US agencies making investigations for a considerable time. With that interception, the US is now providing details on what it was investigating, and says it includes Scud missile programs and surface-to-air missiles for air defense systems, according to information given by UN experts.
This was after two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country's chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, a situation that has been kept secret for a whole.
Even now the report was a leak from confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations, which thus includes Russia as it works with Syria.
Evidently the current diplomatic spat between Russia and the United States, the manner in which the two major powers are engaged in tit for tat diplomatic measures has occasioned the release of that report.
Earlier the US preferred silent diplomacy on that issue, confronting the Russians with the data in closed door sessions, while at times taking military initiative when this cooperation in the use of banned weapons went too far.
That is how US warplanes hit a Syrian air force base after a chemical weapons attack, with President Donald Trump saying that Syria had crossed a ‘red line’ by using banned chemical weapons. Now it is clear where it gets them, by shipments.
The report was prepared by a panel of independent UN experts, which was submitted to the UN Security Council earlier this month and made available to the global news agency Reuters early last week.
A Reuters write up gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained. "The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea)," the experts wrote in the 37-page report. It means that even now the US is protecting Russia on this.
"Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria," the report specified. KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation that was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang's key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria, implying that this business has continued, as in most cases undemocratic countries working with North Korea ignore sanctions.
"The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers," the UN experts wrote. SSRC has overseen the country's chemical weapons program since the 1970s.
The report further said that activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems.
This kind of work or contract tallies with earlier reports of North Korean military cooperation with various developing countries, where either spare parts are no longer available, or would be too costly from their original supplier, Russia.
The North Korean and Syrian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment, which implies that a response would hardly fail to damage the situation further, instead of issuing a denial as the issue wasn’t completely public at the UN Security Council.
The experts were reported to have affirmed that they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in February, where North Korea did all it could to prevent an autopsy, after an airport attack. Two women used by North Korean agents were paid to prepare an advert for a spray…
Operations of this kind are pivotal to bring in much needed foreign exchange to the Pyongyang authorities, which thus give it the clout to use front companies in different parts of the world to purchase technology and materials to process for nuclear engines and missile tests.
North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 when it first made a nuclear test and has continued those tests and developing ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads, which is too frequently being tabled at the UN Security Council for sanctions as the threat to world peace rises with each nuclear and ballistic missiles test.
The UN has ratcheted up sanctions in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches but Russia and China cooperation was poor.
Taking note of strategic demands, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability, especially as North Korea could always step into gaps if any Russian or Iranian companies left after a formal accord to end such weapons being developed there. It is a continuing story, this.