Key senators warn Trump of North Korea effort on Syria
Top GOP senators are pressing the Trump administration to respond to and stop North Korea from providing Syria with chemical weapons supplies.
Experts from the United Nations in February found that North Korea has been shipping Syria supplies that could be used to make chemical weapons, with at least 40 unreported shipments from Pyongyang to Damascus between 2012 and 2017.
In a letter, the senators “express our deep concern” regarding the U.N. report, which “exposes North Korean sanctions evasion involving Russia and China.” The letter is signed by Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Kennedy (La.), Mike Lee (Utah), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and David Perdue (Ga.).
The U.N. report found that North Korea supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad with known elements used in building chemical weapons factories, and North Korean technicians have been seen working at Syrian chemical weapons and missile facilities.
The lawmakers assert that the findings “demonstrate an elaborate and alarming military-venture between rogue, tyrannical states to avoid United States and international sanctions and inflict terror and death upon thousands of innocent people.”
“It is imperative that the United States provides a swift and appropriate response to the continued use of chemical weapons used by President Assad and his forces, and works to address the shortcomings in sanctions enforcement,” the senators add.
The lawmakers ask acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about further sanctions being considered against Pyongyang, Damascus or countries that act as accomplices “to increase pressure and halt the use of chemical weapons.”
They also want answers on the steps the State and Treasury departments are taking, along with the international community to prevent the two countries from continuing to sidestep current sanctions.
The letter also takes a swipe at the previous administration’s Syrian policy, calling former President Obama’s tough talk an “utter failure” and his actions “hollow.”
The letter comes after last week’s chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma. The attack, reported to be chlorine gas and a nerve agent, killed at least 70, injured hundreds and has been blamed on Assad’s government.
President Trump is now weighing a response to the chemical attack. He and British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed in a phone call Thursday to deter further use of chemical weapons by Assad, but no decision has yet been made on how to do so.