NK 'providing materials to Syria chem weapons factories'

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

The disclosure, in a confidential 200-page report seen by "The New York Times", comes as the U.S. and other countries have accused Syria of using chemical weapons on its own civilians, including a suspected chlorine gas attack in eastern Ghouta in the past few days.

The New York Times additionally cites an upcoming book by Angelo State University professor and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Bruce Bechtol that argues North Korea has been supporting Syria's chemical weapons program since the 1990s.

They found evidence of "the transfer to Syria of special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons programmes" in August 2016.

The Syrian government has, in the past, denied allegations that it has used chemical weapons. The latter has also allegedly paid North Korea through a number of front companies. Investigators also detailed sightings of North Korean technicians working at chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria.

William Newcomb, who chaired the United Nations panel of experts on North Korea from 2011 to 2014, described the report "an important breakthrough". "We note that the USA and its allies are simply exploiting baseless allegations of toxic weapons use by Damascus as a tool of anti-Syrian political engineering", he said.

Government attacks on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus killed seven people on Tuesday, violating a five-hour humanitarian pause ordered by Russia, Agence France-Presse reported.

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The council, made up of eight experts in various fields including weapons of mass destruction and customs controls, has been operating since 2010 on a mandate from the UN Security Council to monitor North Korea's sanction violations.

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.

In addition to helping arm its fellow human-rights violators in Syria and Myanmar, North Korea has a well-documented history of exporting heroin and methamphetamine; state entities there reportedly ramped up production of these drugs in response to the tightening of sanctions a year ago.

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.

A United Nations chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria August 29, 2013.

Since taking office more than a year ago, President Trump has met North Korean threats and bombast with fiery rhetoric in kind, but American demands for denuclearization - a USA precondition for potential talks, dangled by the North as the Olympic Games wrapped up on Sunday - are widely considered likely to be futile. The NYT did not say how or when it obtained the United Nations document, which is not available to the public.

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