The U.S. State Department indicated on Tuesday it has been an ongoing concern that North Korea could sell chemical weapons to the Assad regime in Syria as it seeks to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile weapons program.
A reporter asked spokeswoman Heather Nauert about media reports that first came out on Tuesday concerning a forthcoming report from United Nations experts that indicates the North Korean regime has been shipping supplies to Syria.
Nauert told reporters the United States has been concerned the regime may be driven to such measures because of the country's desperate economic conditions.
"This is something that the United States has had concerns about for quite some time, that North Korea–especially as North Korea becomes more desperate–that they look for different, creative, and horrific ways to try to make money to fund their criminal regime," she said.
Nauert said if the regime is selling chemical weapons materials to Syria, it demonstrates why the United States will not engage in talks with North Korea until the hermit state agrees to rid itself of its nuclear weapons.
"If they are selling goods, material, whatever you want to call it, to Syria, it shows the depravity of that regime, and that is exactly why we stand so firmly behind our policy of denuclearization," Nauert said.
Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria, supported by Russia, have used chemical weapons on civilians in multiple parts of the country during its ongoing civil war. Earlier this month, Nauert called out the Russian government for enabling Assad and indicated Assad's forces had used some form of chemical weapons on the Syrian people "six times in the last 30 days."