The government of North Korea sent a “message of greeting to Bashar al-Assad” on Thursday meant to congratulate Assad for “the 70th anniversary of the [Baath Arab Socialist] Party’s founding.” North Korean state media published the congratulatory note on Friday, following the Trump administration’s decision to conduct airstrikes on a key Assad military base.
“Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Thursday sent a message of greeting to Bashar Al-Assad, president of the Syrian Arab Republic who doubles as regional secretary of the Baath Arab Socialist Party,” the North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Friday.
“Today the Party is resolutely struggling to courageously shatter the vicious challenge and aggressive moves of the hostile forces at home and abroad and defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the leadership of Bashar Al-Assad,” Kim, the dictator of North Korea, is said to have written to Assad.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap noted that observers see the note as “showing friendly ties between Pyongyang and Damascus” in a particularly volatile political moment for Assad, as President Donald Trump approves of using American military strength to punish the Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib province, which left hundreds of Syrian civilians dead or injured.
North Korea’s ambassador to Moscow also weighed in on Trump’s airstrikes specifically, threatening a “most ruthless blow” against the United States should the United States exercises “even the smallest provocation” against Pyongyang, a sign that North Korea interpreted the attack on Syria as a warning to other rogue states like itself that America was not afraid of military responses to international human rights law violations.
In addition to the litany of human rights offenses the communist regime in Pyongyang has been accused of, Yonhap notes that North Korea keeps close ties to Syria and “has long been suspected of cooperating with Syria over nuclear programs.”
Trump ordered the airstrikes Thursday night while hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. China is North Korea’s biggest trade partner and a fellow Communist nation many accuse of not doing enough to curb Kim’s erratic and belligerent foreign policy.
Trump praised his discusses with Xi on Friday as “outstanding” and announced that the two world leaders had made “tremendous progress” on a host of issues. “I believe that lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away,” Trump declared.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed with reporters that Trump and Xi had discussed North Korea. “We are hopeful that China will find ways to exercise influence over North Korea’s actions to dismantle their nuclear weapons and their missile technology programs,” he told reporters.
North Korea’s message to Assad on Friday was particularly notable for the timing of Trump’s airstrikes, but it was far from the first time Pyongyang has reached out to Damascus. A month ago, Rodong published a story reporting on a senior North Korean official sending “a message of sympathy to Bashar al-Assad” to express “the firm belief that the Syrian government and people would eradicate the aftereffects of the recent incident as soon as possible and firmly defend the security and stability of the country.”
Kim Jong-un personally sent a “message of greeting” to Assad that month, extending “firm support and solidarity to the Syrian government and people in their just struggle for frustrating the aggression and challenges of the hostile forces.”