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

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development 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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid