Two of the world’s most brutal regimes, Iran and North Korea, each hell-bent on intimidating any country which dares to challenge it, signed an agreement in September to cooperate on science technology and education. In other words, North Korea is officially helping Iran move forward on its path to nuclear weaponization.
The deal was signed by the two countries when a North Korean delegation traveled to Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement Summit which took place on August 31 and September 1, 2012.
That agreement was described by North Korea’s state-run news agency in non-threatening terms, simply as one involving “cooperation in science, technology and education,” but former State Department official David Asher, who testified at a congressional hearing on North Korea before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week, described it as very much like the agreement entered into by North Korea and Syria in 2002. Asher warned that the 2002 agreement was the “keystone for the commencement of covert nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Syria, which ultimately resulted in the construction of a nuclear reactor complex.”
During Asher’s tenure at the state department he was the coordinator of the North Korea Working Group designed to curtail the nuclear threat.
The Syrian project was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007, shortly before its completion. Experts agree that the Syrian-North Korean project had no purpose other than to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The late summer NAM Summit was described by Iran as the “most important” political event in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 33 year history. In attendance were not only many traditional allies of Iran, but also countries the U.S. consider to be allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. That those countries visited when the U.S. is pushing hard to make Iran feel isolated within the diplomatic world, was a blow to U.S. prestige.
United Nations president Ban ki-Moon also attended the late summer NAM Summit, but Ban repeatedly criticized the Iranian government’s human rights record as well as its deplorable responses to the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear program.
Both North Korea and Iran are the subject of numerous sanctions by the United Nations, under strong U.S. pressure. In a meeting with North Korea’s president of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei stated clearly that the two countries share “common enemies.” In this case they were referring to the U.S., but Iran and Syria are at the forefront of Israel’s many enemies.
North Korea is rich in raw uranium and other natural resources necessary for building nuclear weapons. It also has the scientific know-how and centrifuge technology to share with its partner Iran.
On February 12, North Korea conducted its third and most successful nuclear test thus far. It later declared it had made progress in securing a functioning atomic arsenal. In response, the U.N. unanimously expanded sanctions on North Korea.
North Korea repeatedly claims that the United States is using military drills in South Korea in advance of launching a nuclear war against North Korea. Just last week, North Korea threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.
“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
North Korea’s repeated willingness to ignore the demands of the international community to desist from testing nuclear weapons testing can only send the worst signals to Iran, which is that the U.N. will have meetings and denounce actions, but will not prevent further tests.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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