North Korea 'sets up underground military base in Syria'
North Korea has set up an underground military base in Syria close to the hometown of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a news report.
Pyongyang built the subterranean base in the village of Qardaha near the coastal city of Latakia, news website Zaman al-Wasl said on Monday.
Military sources told the pro-opposition outlet that construction on the base began in March 2011 under the supervision of North Korean experts.
Long tunnels have been dug into a deep valley close to the mountain village to form the undisclosed base, according to the sources.
The website released satellite images of what it said was base while it was under construction 2011 and in 2018 when completed.
The report comes after the UN accused North Korea of sending items used in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programmes to Syria along with missile technicians in violation of UN sanctions.
A panel of UN experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea said its investigations into Pyongyang's transfer of prohibited ballistic missile, conventional arms and dual-use goods found more than 40 previously unreported shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017.
The United States and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas of the country, which the regime denies.
North Korea has denied it was cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons.
In a statement circulated by its diplomatic mission at the UN in New York, Pyongyang's foreign ministry said it "does not have a single record of developing, producing and stockpiling a chemical weapon."
At least 30 people in Syria's Eastern Ghouta were treated this week after suffering symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas.
Last month, a child died and at least 13 other people suffered breathing difficulties in a suspected chemical attack in the village of al-Shifuniyah.
Damascus and its key ally Moscow face growing pressure after reports of suspected chlorine use in the battered Eastern Ghouta, where Syria's army is carrying out a ground and air assault.