WASHINGTON – The Pyongyang-Damascus axis is back in order. For the first time since the Syrian reactor was bombed in September 2007, North Korea has renewed its supply of sensitive military technology to Damascus, according to a report Tuesday in Japanese business newspaper, Nikkei.
Western intelligence sources told the newspaper that North Korea is aiding Syria in the production of maraging steel, which is extremely durable at high heats and pressure. It is typically used in missile skins, ballistic warheads, and gas centrifuges critical in the uranium enrichment process. Its durability and malleability makes it ideal to for creating thin missile skins capable of carrying heavier payloads.
The West and Japan restrict the export of maraging steel.
According to the report, a production line for the material was built at the military factory in the city of Homs, in northern Syria.
North Korea, in defiance of the West, does not restrict its export of the special nickel-alloy steel, and has supplied Syria with a melting furnace and molding tools necessary for making the steels at their Homs plant.
The report reveals that North Korean experts are training Syrian engineers how to produce the specialized steel. Sources told the newspaper that the production line will be complete if equipment for handling waste and for chemical tests and other analyses are supplied.
Iran denied on Tuesday claims by Thailand that a planeload of North Korean weapons seized there in December was headed to Iran.
"There is no link between the aircraft and our country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.
He said Iran had no need to import such arms due to its own weapons industry, which includes rockets, tanks, jet fighters, light submarines and missiles.
Thailand said Monday that the aircraft, which was seized on a refueling stop, was heading to Iran, though it did not know the ultimate destination of the 35 tons of weaponry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report