The United States has acquired information that indicates North Korea may be running a large underground military base in Syria, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Wednesday. The military base could be used for advanced weaponry and nuclear-related work, according to U.S. officials tracking the situation.
Regional reports have recently surfaced that outline how North Korea is nearly complete in its construction of an underground military base near the region of Qardaha in Syria. Qardaha is also the hometown of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Zaman Al Wasl, a Syrian news outlet, detailed this month that: “According to … satellite images and a military source, the underground facility has been under construction for seven years, started by the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011.” The outlet also explained that “the high level of secrecy and tight guard in the North Korean base raise speculations whether it’s a nuclear facility or overseas depot for North Korean weapons.”
U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon stated that they are aware of the reports and will continue to monitor the situation.
“We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”
The regional reports of North Korea’s alleged new military base come at a time in which the Trump Administration has attempted to increase efforts to counter North Korea’s proliferation in Syria.
“The United States has long expressed its deep concerns about both the assistance the DPRK provides to Syria’s weapons programs and Syria’s ongoing possession and use of chemical weapons – both activities in defiance of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions,” a State Department official said.
The underground North Korean military base could also be hiding more than just chemical weapons. According to the regional reports, the sheer size of the base itself is an indication that nuclear work was also a possibility. Supposed satellite images of the base appear to show that only a small portion of the facility is visible from above ground.
“Long tunnels have been built during the last seven years in a deep valley in Qardaha under the supervision of North Korean experts,” the Zaman Al Wasl outlet reported.
President Donald Trump and his administration have called on U.S. allies to join together in an effort to combat these types of actions, and pressure North Korea and Syria to cease such operations.
“North Korea is a significant threat to international security, and the Assad regime’s ongoing use of chemical weapons is a similar affront to international law,” a State Department official said. “We work with all our partners to uphold U.N. Security Council resolutions and prevent North Korea and Syria from further threatening international peace and stability.”