One of the world's veteran pariah nations reportedly tried to help out one of its newer ones: A Japanese newspaper says North Korea got caught trying to ship gas masks to Syria this spring. The report in the Sankei Shimbun says Turkish officials acting on a tip from the US stopped a ship from North Korea, seizing the gas masks along with arms and ammunition, according to the Japan Times. The apparent plan was to unload the cargo in Turkey, then transport it over land to Bashar al-Assad's army. The revelation (based on anonymous sources) comes as the US weighs military action over Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.
"There is a long-term relationship between North Korea and Syria, similar to the agreement with Iran, on nuclear and conventional weapons," an expert at the Asia Strategy Institute in Seoul tells the LA Times. “I don’t see any signs that it has diminished.” If confirmed, the report would put Pyongyang in violation of UN sanctions that prohibit the sale of its weapons. It also would add further weight to assertions that Assad planned to use poison gas.