Syria's Assad sends congratulations to North Korea's Kim

SEOUL (AFP) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent a message of congratulations to North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un as the communist country marks its 65th anniversary, state media said on Friday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Mr Kim received the message from Mr Assad on Thursday. In it, the Syrian President extended his "sincere congratulations" to Mr Kim and "the friendly people" of his country 65 years after the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's formal name, according to KCNA.

The report said Mr Assad also reconfirmed Syria's efforts to strengthen the "friendly and cooperative" relations between Syria and North Korea. It came one day after South Korea's defence ministry called for fresh attention to North Korean chemical weapons, suggesting such arms might have been traded between Pyongyang and Syria.

"We believe there has been a chemical weapons connection between North Korea and Syria," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters on Thursday.

The report also came as 11 of the nations attending the G-20 summit in St Petersburg in Russia on Friday called for a "strong" response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria blamed on the Assad regime.