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NK highlights friendly ties with Syria amid chemical weapon attack row

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a congratulatory message to Syria over the founding anniversary of the country's ruling party, Pyongyang's media said Friday, amid global condemnation against Damascus's suspected chemical weapon attack on civilians.

The North's leader sent the message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the controlling Ba'ath party, according to Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper.

Syria (AFP-Yonhap)
Syria (AFP-Yonhap)

The move is seen to be aimed at showing friendly ties between Pyongyang and Damascus as about 90 people were killed by the Syrian government's suspected uses of chemical weapons Tuesday against a rebel-held area in the northern part of the country.

"The two countries' friendly relations will be strengthened and developed, given their fight against imperialism," Kim was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

North Korea has long been suspected of cooperating with Syria over nuclear programs.

The North has built a plutonium production reactor in Syria, though the facility was ultimately destroyed by an Israeli strike in 2007 before it became operational, according to Robert Gallucci, who negotiated a 1994 nuclear freeze deal with the North.

The US launched a barrage of cruise missiles at an air base on Thursday night (local time) in retaliation for the latest chemical weapon attack for which Washington blames Assad.

Experts said that the US airstrike is a message to North Korea and China showing the US has the will and means to take military action, though there appears to be a slim chance of Washington attacking North Korea.

"North Korea and Syria are different in some aspects including geographical location, but the US strikes can serve as Washington's indirect message saying that Pyongyang could be targeted," said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Kyungnam University.

US President Donald Trump said earlier this week the US will tackle North Korea on its own if China refuses to use its leverage to rein in the North, according to an interview with the Financial Times. (Yonhap)

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