North Korea has been lending expertise and equipment to the government of Syria’s ongoing missile development programme, in violation of international sanctions against the DPRK, a report by Jane’s Defence Weekly released over the weekend claims.
Citing Syrian and EU Foreign and Security policy sources, the report says that experts from the state-run Tangun Trading Corporation is working with the Syria Scientific Studies and Research Center at its Project 99 compound near Hamah, to improve Syria’s Scud D missiles stockpile.
The report claims that North Korean experts are researching and producing components which will make the missiles’ flight trajectory harder to predict, making them harder t0 target with anti-missile systems when they re-enter the atmosphere. Scud D missiles have an estimated range of 435 miles.
Joe Bermudez, a defense analyst and Editor of the KPA Journal told NK News that “North Korea was instrumental in the establishment of a Scud production capability [in Syria]”.
“The report is interesting in that the Syrian Army has launched numerous Scuds during the Arab Spring unrest and now during their civil war, and their inventory is likely to need replenishment,” he said.
“Since the likelihood of them acquiring new Scuds from North Korea is low due to sanctions, it makes sense that they would restart internal production”.
The Jane’s Defence report argues that North Korean assistance to Syria is in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea from exporting security-related materials.
The Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, the company responsible for the import of the missile equipment and the experts supervising the government, is largely considered a front company through which the North Korean government exports war materials to other countries.
The company features on the United Nations’ Consolidated List of companies whose assets are frozen under Resolution 1718, which describes it as “primarily responsible for the procurement of commodities and technologies to support DPRK’s defense research and development programs including, but not limited to, WMD and delivery system programs and procurement, including materials that are controlled or prohibited under relevant multilateral control regimes”.
It is subordinate to the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, the North Korean military’s research and development arm, which is charged with the KPA’s most advanced projects, such as ballistic missiles and, potentially, nuclear development.
Lawrence Dermody, a researcher on Illicit Trafficking at the Stockholm International Peace Institute, told NK News that given that “North Korea is understood to have supplied both Scud as well as TELs to Syria in the 90s, technical assistance from Korean engineers in servicing them would be inherently valuable to the [Syrian] Government”.
“Although technical assistance might come from a number of states,” he continued, “North Korea is well placed to assist specifically with ballistic capabilities given historical collaboration between the two states in that field”.
Syria and North Korea have a long history of military co-operation dating back to the 1980s. In June, NK News revealed that North Korean technial experts have been dispatched to Syria, assisting the government in producing chemical weapons and upgrading their missile capabilities so they could be armed with chemical weapons.
In November North Korea denied any military involvement in the Syrian Civil War in a report on KCNA, saying that media reports suggesting the Syrian government had been using North Korean pilots and weapons against rebel insurgents were an attempt to slander the DPRK.
The reports, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, were “foolish plots of hostile forces to tarnish the image of the peace-loving DPRK and cover up their criminal acts of blocking the peaceful settlement of the Syrian situation.”
The news comes as representatives of the Syrian government and the political opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad engage in the first set of serious peace negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. Also assisting Syria, the report claimed, were Iran and the Belarus.
Picture: SCUD missile launch, edited Flickr Creative Commons by Kevin Baird
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