North Korea has shipped ballistic missile and chemical weapons components to Syria until last year, U.S. media outlets reported Tuesday, citing a leaked UN report. Shipments reportedly include acid-resistant tiles, valves, and thermometers known for being used in chemical weapons programs. According to the report, North Korean technicians had also been spotted working at chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria in 2016. “It shows the depravity of that regime, and that is exactly why we stand so firmly behind our policy of denuclearization,” said the U.S. State Department.
This is hardly the first time that North Korea has engaged in the so-called “black trade” to supply rogue states such as Iran and Syria with weapons. However, the sobering fact that North Korea has been aggravating the tragedy of Syria, which has turned into a “killing field” since the civil war ravaged the country more than seven years ago, drives home how evil the Kim Jong Un regime is. As the State Department pointed out that “As North Korea becomes more desperate, they look for different, creative, and horrific ways to try to make money to fund their criminal regime,” North Korea seems to be exploring ways to sidestep sanctions by colluding with evil.
The Syrian crisis initially broke out as conflicts between the government forces, rebels and the Islamic State (IS), but now with IS retreating in most regions, it has developed into fights between pro-Syrian government forces, rebels and Kurds. Worse still, it is likely to become a proxy war with neighboring countries joining the battle. Recently, the Syrian government has been also condemned by the international community for allegedly using chemical weapons in an area of the Damascus suburb of Syria's Eastern Ghouta. In April 2017, the Trump administration conducted a missile strike on the Syrian air base in retaliation of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The attack was a pre-emptive “bloody nose” strategy, which has been recently mentioned in the United States as a military option towards North Korea.
North Korea’s connection with Syria to supply chemical weapons will now serve as evidence for the United States to further intensify the level of pressure on North Korea. Washington announced the heaviest-ever sanctions on Pyongyang last Friday to completely block the regime from trading freight through vessels. The Trump administration is also known to have started to analyze the records of North Korean vessels that are known to be used in illegal trade activities in the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, no one can guarantee that the United States’ marine blockade, which would basically close off the North Korean waters militarily, will remain only as a hypothetical scenario.
With the sudden resignation of Joseph Yun, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, dovish politicians in the United States seem to be increasingly losing ground. Marc Knapper, acting U.S. ambassador in South Korea, said Wednesday that denuclearization is a precondition for talks and the United States does not want to have talks if the North seeks to buy time to pursue nuclear developments. Other than a military strike, a marine blockade will be the largest pressure on North Korea. With the possibility of South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises scheduled for early April functioning as a test bed, the Kim Jong Un regime now has no choice but to choose a path towards denuclearization. Only one month is left.