News / Asia

New Reports Link N. Korean, Iranian Nuclear Programs

News media in Northeast Asia are reporting details of alleged cooperation between Iran and North Korea in trying to build atomic bombs. Such joint activities have been suspected for years.

South Korea’s foreign ministry and the national intelligence service say they cannot comment on fresh reports linking Pyongyang's atomic efforts to Iran.

Officials with the agencies considered at the forefront of monitoring North Korea's nuclear programs say the allegations, apparently leaked by diplomats in recent days, involve classified information.

IAEA assessment

The allegations follow last Tuesday’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA's most comprehensive assessment yet about Iran's nuclear programs details what it says is evidence of Iran's covert and continuous effort, since 2003, to build a nuclear bomb, going far beyond the stated goals of energy and medical research.

Last Friday, Iran's top envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, called the report a fabrication based on "lousy" intelligence by the United States and its allies.

The 25-page report has since been leaked and makes no mention of a link between Iran and North Korea.  But last Friday U.N. investigators gave a private technical presentation to the 35 member states of the IAEA Board of Governors.  Since then, diplomats have been quoted anonymously by South Korea media alleging that hundreds of North Korean scientists and engineers have been working at nuclear and missile facilities in Iran.

Covert trips

Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun says among the Iranian sites the North Koreans have been visiting are three research centers carrying out simulations of how to trigger nuclear weapons.

Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation, which conducts research and analysis for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, says experts, for years, have been suspicious about this type of cooperation.

"There've been stories of Iranians at the nuclear tests in North Korea, for example," Bennett said.  "So if information is really being shared then you've got a much more dangerous situation because most people would argue that the North Korean nuclear program is out ahead of Iran and we don't want Iran having that assistance."

The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, in a report this year, characterized the cooperation as mutual.  It said North Korea has a technological edge over Iran in uranium enrichment and the manufacture of nuclear-related equipment, such as high-strength steel.  The IISS report said North Korea's weapons programs also benefit from Iranian technology.

Bennett, of the Rand Corporation, says the international community needs to pay more attention to the nuclear links between North Korea and Iran.

"But stopping that or even slowing it down is going to be complicated.  The people can travel to Iran without having to go through places where we can't stop them," he said.

The South Korean media reports say the North Koreans enter Iran covertly through other countries, such as Russia and China.  The North Koreans are said to be employed at 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran and are apparently rotated every few months.

Nuclear capability

The Washington Post
reported November 7 that Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the IAEA findings say that Iran has reached the threshold of nuclear capability with crucial technology linked to North Korea and Pakistan.

Iran and North Korea were customers of the network run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.  And both countries are under United Nations economic sanctions for their nuclear programs.

U.S. President Barack Obama, at the conclusion of Sunday's APEC Summit in Hawaii, told reporters the sanctions against Tehran have had "enormous bite" and he will consult with other nations about additional steps to prevent Iran for acquiring an atomic weapon.

North Korea has also been accused in U.N. and other reports of possibly supplying not only Iran but also Syria and Burma with banned atomic technology.

In August, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported North Korea had provided Iran with a computer program that can help scientists identify self-sustaining chain reactions, vital for the construction of reactors and also in the development of nuclear explosives.

Tracking cooperation


Analysts say they have also been tracking, since the 1980s, cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran on missile development.

Of utmost concern is whether North Korea has given Iran some Russian designed advanced missiles. There is no evidence, however, that either North Korea or Iran has flight-tested the missile, known as the BM-25 or Musudan.

Russia denies its existence.  Some analysts contend previous public displays of the Musudan in Pyongayng military parades were merely fakes. The missile is believed to be based on the former Soviet Union’s R-27, a submarine-launched missile with a range of between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers, designed to carry nuclear warheads.

In a presentation at a think tank seminar in Seoul last week, Bennett of the Rand Corporation, said there is wide speculation about the size of North Korea's possible nuclear weapons arsenal. He said Pyongyang may not have any weapons yet but could have "as many as 20" with the number of reliable ones ranging between two and 16.

But Bennett is adamant that it would be wrong to characterize North Korea as a nuclear power because it has not demonstrated a working atomic bomb, despite carrying out tests of nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations. They fought a three-year civil war to a stalemate in the early 1950's. They technically remain at war as no peace treaty has ever been signed.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid