Last month a teenage boy was photographed holding an oxygen mask to the face of an infant. All around them was rubble. Plastic sheets served as walls in a makeshift hospital.
The location was Duma, Syria, where the infant had been gassed by troops loyal to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. We don’t know if the tot survived, but the odds are not good. In the two months of 2018, Assad has ordered three such attacks on rebel forces.
Syria is now in its seventh year of civil war, though its citizens would probably be hard-pressed to tell friend from foe. That’s because the Syrian conflict has become a proxy war for a smattering of nations, sometimes making them enemies, sometimes allies.
A report last week to the United Nations revealed a years-long transfer of supplies from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Syria for the development of chemical weapons. Included with the armaments are routine visits by technicians skilled in chemical and ballistic-missile technology, according to U.N. investigators.
The trade, largely financed by Iran, is worth billions of dollars a year to North Korea. Also on the take is a China-based firm, cited for smuggling the goods to Syria in five different shipments over the past 18 months.
The report also said trade between the Syrian and North Korean regimes has gone on since 2012, resulting in more than 40 shipments of banned missile parts and materials.
The use of chemical weapons against humanity is considered a war crime, violating a host of international treaties. Unfortunately, the countries involved are tone deaf to humanitarian sensibilities. North Korea, facing increased sanctions from Western powers, is especially desperate for such trade and has worked to develop similar partnerships with the Houthi militia in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the military government in Myanmar as well as a host of countries in Africa.
In the West, we call that blood money.
PRESIDENT TRUMP has warned North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un that if he doesn’t halt his nuclear program the United States may resort to military action. But because it’s that very activity that not only puts bread on the table but also helps North Korea race toward its own nuclear goals, that’s a risk Mr. Kim seems willing to take.
It’s because dictators in Iran and North Korea have been successful in playing the world’s super powers against each other that we have been unable to come together as a united front and demand that such horrific practices as chemical warfare or nuclear proliferation in the case of North Korea must be stopped.
If the United States attempts to go it alone, we will be putting ourselves in grave danger of inciting a nuclear attack. Coupled with delicate egos and short fuses, both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim are worrisome holders of such capabilities.
But if China, Europe, the Gulf states and Russia were to join the United States in threatening to cease all trade with North Korea, as we did with Iran, then it must yield to our demands to mothball its nuclear program for the sake of securing a tomorrow.
The choices are that dire.
— Susan Lynn
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