Military Capabilities

UN report reveals extent of North Korean arms sales

04 April 2018

A report by a United Nations panel of experts has identified a broad network of defence co-operation between North Korea and several other countries.

Most prominently, the report identifies the sale of industrial equipment potentially capable of helping Syria reconstitute its chemical weapon production capabilities and provides confirmation that Pyongyang assisted in the development of Syria’s manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle ‘Scud D’ missile. Moreover, it reveals the sale of North Korean ballistic missiles to Myanmar.

Released in late March, the report states that intercepted shipments, which were intended for Syria’s Scientific Studies Research Centre (SSRC), contained resistant valves, thermometers, and acid-resistant tiles in quantities required for a “large-scale industrial project”. The tiles were assessed by an unidentified UN member state as capable of being used to construct the internal walls of a chemical facility. In addition to this equipment, the report said Syria reportedly discussed acquiring “over 60 types of items” from North Korea.

The GR-150 tactical radio system, one of the systems interdicted in July 2016 while en route to Eritrea from North Korea’s Glocom. (Glocom)The GR-150 tactical radio system, one of the systems interdicted in July 2016 while en route to Eritrea from North Korea’s Glocom. (Glocom)

The valves, thermometers, and tiles were shipped in late 2016 to front companies acting on behalf of SSRC, which has been described by the US Treasury as being focused on the “development of biological and chemical weapons”.

While not necessarily evidentiary, the quantities of these materials and their intended recipient are indicative of a potential move to reconstitute Syria’s chemical weapons production capabilities despite a 2014 US-Russian agreement covering Syria’s handover of its entire chemical weapons stockpile. US officials cited by Reuters news agency stated in February 2018 that the Syrian government is believed to have retained a part of this stockpile.

Meanwhile, the report cited a UN member state as confirming that North Korea’s Ryonhap-2 Corporation assisted Syria in developing a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MRV) for the latter’s ‘Scud D’ ballistic missile in 2008. Jane’s previously reported that North Koreans from the Tangun Trading Corporation were working in co-operation with SSRC in an Institute 4000 facility in Jabal Taqsis, close to Hamah.

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