N. Korea offering chemical weapon equipment to Syria: reports

SEOUL, North Korea has been providing Syria with materials that can be used to manufacture chemical weapons, according to multiple news reports Wednesday based on a U.N. probe.

The supplies include acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers, the New York Times said. It cited an unreleased document compiled by the U.N. Panel of Experts on the Security Council's resolutions against Pyongyang.

The secretive North has also sent its missile technicians to Syria's chemical and missile facilities, added the newspaper.

CNN, AP and some other western media carried similar reports on Pyongyang's clandestine ties with Damascus, either extracting information from the more than 200-page U.N. report or quoting related U.N. diplomats.

AP said the North recently supplied Myanmar with ballistic missile systems, as well, in violation of the U.N.-led sanctions.

There have been widespread suspicions about North Korea's illicit weapons trade with Syria and Myanmar.

The U.N. report leaked to the press includes "evidence" and adds to the international community's concerns about the North's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Syrian government is accused of using chemical weapons on civilians, including recent attacks in a suburb of Damascus.

The reports come at a sensitive time when South Korea is striving to arrange denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Emboldened by the mood of inter-Korean reconciliation driven by the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the Moon Jae-in administration is acting as a de-facto messenger between the two sides.

It has asked both the North and the U.S. to first lower the bar for an "exploratory meeting."

On his visit here earlier this week, the North's top-ranking official Kim Yong-chol was quoted as saying that his regime is willing to talk with Washington. But American officials said talks with Pyongyang require the "right conditions."

It remains uncertain how the latest U.N. disclosure will affect their longstanding stand-off.

It may serve as another obstacle to dialogue or a catalyst for talks by putting more pressure on Pyongyang, observers said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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