North Korea’s nuclear test has an unsavoury connection with the sub-continent: Pakistan’s brazen complicity in helping North Korea build the bomb in return for missile technology.
HONG KONG: North Korea’s nuclear test has an unsavoury connection with the sub-continent: Pakistan’s brazen complicity in helping North Korea build the bomb in return for missile technology. It’s a connection that the world has been blind to for some years now, despite compelling evidence of Pakistan’s involvement, because it was seen as a frontline ally in the “war or terror” since the 9/11 attacks on the US.
Journalist and author Seymour Hersh has noted that in June 2002, a CIA document, had revealed that Pakistan had been sharing sophisticated technology, warhead-design information, and weapons-testing data with North Korea since 1997.
That year, according to the report, Pakistan began paying for missile systems from North Korea in part by sharing its nuclear-weapons secrets. Pakistan also sent prototypes of high-speed centrifuge machines to North Korea, and sometime in 2001 North Korean scientists began to enrich uranium in significant quantities. Pakistan further provided data on how to build and test a uranium-triggered nuclear weapon, the CIA report noted.
In fact, the roots of Pakistan’s defence cooperation with North Korea go much deeper. A Congressional Research Service report, titled Weapons of Mass Destruction: Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan, noted that the two countries had been engaged in conventional arms trade for over 30 years.
Pakistani ballistic missile engineers developed working relationships with North Korean engineers in the mid-1980s when they both assisted Iran in its war with Iraq. “As North Korea began successfully exporting ballistic missiles and technology, Pakistan began producing highly enriched uranium at the Khan Research Laboratory” (named after the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, A Q Khan).
According to the report, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit in 1993 to Pyongyang may have kicked off the missle cooperation agreement. Pakistan procured the medium-range No Dong missiles in the mid-1990s; they were reincarnated as the Ghauri missiles in Pakistan; when Pakistan had to pay for them, it found itself low on cash reserves, and subsequently offered North Korea “a route to nuclear weapons using HEU that would circumvent” the 1994 Agreed Framework between North Korea and the US, which placed restrictions on plutonium processing.
Over the years, there have been several other reports of cooperation between Pakistan and North Korean. American intelligence is known to have tracked at least 13 visits to North Korea by Khan. The question, notes the Congressional report, is whether the Bush administration has given higher priority, since September 2001, to cooperation on counter-terrorism than to cooperation on non-proliferation. It said, “...the considerable uncertainty about the Pakistani government’s involvement in Khan’s activities, particularly with respect to North Korea, raises questions about its past, but also future, cooperation in combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction.”