North Korea provided nuclear aid to Iran: intelligence reports
VIENNA: Recent intelligence reports accuse North Korea of
secretly helping Iran develop its nuclear programme, raising fresh concerns
about Pyongyang’s nuclear proliferation and Tehran’s atomic intentions.
The United States and the European Union fear Iran is using its nuclear energy
programme as a front to develop nuclear weapons and have called on Iran to cease
all sensitive atomic work. Tehran says its programme is peaceful and refuses to
give up its sovereign right to a full atomic programme.
“In the late 1990s, cooperation began between the two countries, which focused
on nuclear (research and development),” said an intelligence report obtained
from a non-US diplomat.
“There has been a significant improvement in relations between Iran and North
Korea over the past few months,” the report said.
A recent example is what the three-page report described as a “special secret
course to provide technological and practical information to outstanding
students.” Among the lecturers are senior North Korean scientists and atomic
technicians, it said.
“This nuclear cooperation between the two countries has apparently increased
significantly during the past year as seen in the arrival of an academic
delegation from North Korea in Iran and the existence of this special course,”
it said. The secret masters level course at Tehran’s Polytechnic University
covered “dual use” nuclear technology that could be applied to civilian or
military applications, the report said. “It seems Iran is taking another step
to promote its military nuclear project by exploiting North Korea’s extensive
technological information in the nuclear sphere,” it said.
A senior Iranian official who was shown the report did not respond to several
requests for a comment. A nuclear expert who was involved in the International
Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) investigation of Iran’s atomic programme said
there was no way the IAEA would get access to this kind of information but he
said it was credible.
“Only intelligence agencies can get this kind of information, not the IAEA,”
the expert told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of
“But it’s credible. No one would be surprised if this was true.”
He added that it was not illegal for Iran to get such training from North Korean
experts, though he said any nuclear cooperation between the two countries was
worrying. David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector and head of the
Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security think-tank,
said North Korea was the only country that would give Iran sensitive nuclear
know-how at the moment.
“No legitimate country would come to Tehran and teach this stuff,” Albright
He said he was worried North Korea might even be trying take on the role that
Pakistan once played in Iran. “The fear is that North Korea would replace the
Khan network,” Albright said. He was referring to a global black market set up
by the father of Pakistan’s atomic weapons programme, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan,
that supplied Iran, Libya and possibly North Korea with sensitive nuclear
Khan’s network has largely been shut down, UN experts say.
US President George W Bush has listed both Iran and North Korea as members of an
“axis of evil” of states seeking the world’s deadliest weapons.
Communist North Korea, which withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
in 2003, says it already has the bomb.
A diplomat from one of the three European Union states trying to persuade Iran
to give up its uranium enrichment programme — France, Britain and Germany —
agreed that the intelligence reports concerning Iranian and North Korean
cooperation were plausible. .
“The North Koreans are willing to do everything for money,” the European
diplomat told Reuters. Several Asian diplomats agreed that the reports were
There have been other intelligence reports on Iranian cooperation with North
Korea. Last month, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper quoted a senior Western
intelligence official as saying Tehran was negotiating with North Korea to build
a series of underground bunkers to hide atomic equipment in Iran.
Last week, the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun said Japan was worried technology
for a long-range cruise missile that can carry nuclear warheads may have been
leaked to North Korea from Iran. This information was given to Japan by a US
intelligence agency, said Sankei, a conservative daily.
Back To Top