WASHINGTON -- North Korea is suspected of working with Syria on its chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, a UN panel of experts has said.
The eight-member panel tasked with monitoring sanctions implementation against Pyongyang made the observation in a 111-page report published online on Saturday, two days before the US-proposed date for a new Security Council resolution vote.
The panel said it is investigating "reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation"
between North Korea and Syria, including activities on Syria's Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of its surface-to-air missile air defense systems.
An investigation is also ongoing to determine whether blacklisted North Korean entities or individuals continue to operate in the Middle Eastern country, it said.
"Two (UN) Member States interdicted shipments destined for the Syrian Arab Republic," the report said. "Another Member State informed the Panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with the Syrian Arab Republic."
KOMID, or the North's Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., is the regime's primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
"The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for the Syrian Arab Republic Scientific Studies and Research Center," the report said, noting the center has been identified by the panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers.
"The Center was reported by Member States as the entity responsible for the Syrian Arab Republic chemical weapons program," it added.
The findings covered the period Feb. 2 - Aug. 5, including the February assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, and the regime's first tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile in July.
They did not include the Security Council's adoption of new sanctions against Pyongyang on Aug. 5 or North Korea's sixth nuclear test last week.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has made significant technological advances in its weapons of mass destruction capability in defiance of the most comprehensive and targeted sanctions regime in United Nations history," the report said.
"Despite an increased rate of Member States' submission of national implementation reports to the Security Council, the actual implementation of the sanctions lags far behind what is necessary to achieve the core goal of denuclearization."
North Korea's pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities appears likely to continue at a "rapid pace," the panel said, citing Kim Jong-un's past statements.
The experts also detailed other sanctions violations, including North Korea's exports of almost all commodities banned by the resolutions, which led to at least $270 million in revenue during the reporting period.
North Korea also rerouted coal shipments to countries including Malaysia and Vietnam after China suspended such imports in February, they said.
The report accused Pyongyang of continuing to flout financial sanctions by stationing agents abroad to carry out transactions on behalf of national entities, while financial institutions in "numerous" member states "wittingly and unwittingly" provided banking services to North Korean front companies and individuals engaged in banned activities.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program remained active across the Yongbyon nuclear complex, Punggye-ri nuclear test site and Pyongsan uranium mine, it said. (Yonhap)