How North Korea Is Helping Iran Develop Nuclear Weapons
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Elliot Abrams confirmed last week that North Korea, for quite some time, has been helping Iran’s quest to become a nuclear weapon state.
Abrams, responding to a reporter’s question, attested that Tehran and Pyongyang had resumed a mutual agreement to construct long-range missiles that could potentially carry nuclear warheads.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed that the Islamic Republic of Iran “will never have a nuclear weapon” so long as he is president. With the hope to keep the theocratic regime from having such capabilities, Trump exercised “maximum pressure” after he pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in 2018, which included the imposition of heavy sanctions. This led, as reports suggest, Iran’s currency (the rial) to lose at least 49% of its value, making it effectively one of the most worthless currencies in the world.
Another goal of Trump’s “maximum pressure” was to prod Iran with the expectation that it would come crawling back to the bargaining table to renegotiate the JCPOA.
After last month’s stinging rebuke at the UN Security Council, when only the Dominican Republic supported a U.S. resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, and notwithstanding Iran’s dire economic situation, it is now clear that Trump’s Iran strategy is failing. The mullahs are not going to renegotiate the nuclear deal — at least under the present White House administration — and they are certainly not going to halt their nuclear ambitions, especially now that they are getting ever closer to developing a nuclear bomb with North Korea’s help.
North Korea Assisting Iran
The average simpleton probably thought after President Trump and North Korean dictator General Secretary Kim Jong-Un “fell in love,” as Trump proclaimed, the Kim regime would halt all of its open and clandestine nuclear operations.
While Trump was singing the praises of one of the world’s cruelest dictators, heralding Kim Jong-Un as a “great leader” and a “man of his word” and fully expecting him to “denuclearize” without so much as defining the term — he would have had better luck proving that the moon is made of cheese — Kim took Trump for a ride, thereupon turning to one of his partners in crime.
According to an unnamed senior U.S. official, North Korea has been transferring “critical parts” to Iran to create long-range missile. In a June 2018 report by James Robbins, Pyongyang may also be providing the regime fissionable material. And as early as January, there are now hundreds of North Korean advisers in Iran providing mid-range Musudan missiles and the technology for the Taepodong intercontinental type. Apparently, Kim has been itching to test-fire them in keeping with his promise of “a new strategic weapon” to intimidate the U.S.
Iranian-North Korean Military Ties
As early as 1979, Iran and North Korea have forged a strategic partnership. Hampered by a common enmity toward the U.S. and a mutual need to weather international isolation, both rogue nations brought something to the table that the other desperately needed — Iran provided oil, while North Korea supplied military expertise and hardware.
The bipartisan agency United Against A Nuclear Iran published how North Korea, since the last decade, has been Iran’s crucial nuclear partner:
- In 2010, WikiLeaks released a secret American intelligence cable from February 2010 that concluded Iran had obtained from North Korea a cache of 19 advanced BM-25 missiles, which possess a range of up to 2,000 miles. According to reports, the BM-25 “could carry a nuclear warhead,” giving Iran “for the first time…the capacity to strike at capitals in Western Europe or easily reach Moscow.
- In May 2011, Reuters obtained a confidential UN report that stated, “Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between [North Korea] and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air.” Such trade clearly violated U.N. sanctions that prohibited Iran at the time from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” and North Korea from exporting nuclear and missile technology.
- In December 2012, North Korea completed its first successful launch of a long-range ballistic missile, confirming American fears that the so-called hermit kingdom had finally acquired the technology to pose a threat to American shores. Critically, according to Asian policy experts, “North Korea’s sudden success on December 12 was not the result of good fortune but rather the fruition of its increasing instructional cooperation with Iran.”
- In 2013, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Iranian missile technicians from the Shahi Hemmat Industrial Group traveled to Pyongyang to work on an 80-ton rocket booster According to the report, “The booster is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be intended for a new long-range missile or space launch vehicle that could be used to carry nuclear warheads, and could be exported to Iran in the future.” Were Iran to acquire this technology, its ballistic missile program would be transformed from a regional into a global threat.
- In October 2015, taking full advantage of the watered-down U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, test-launching at least 23 ballistic missiles since the JCPOA was reached in July of the same year, Iran successfully test-launched the Emad, its first precision-guided medium-range ballistic missile.
- In May 2017, Iran conducted a failed cruise missile test launch from a Ghadir-class “midget” submarine in the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian submarine’s design closely mirrored that of North Korea’s Yono-class, prompting speculation that the Tehran-Pyongyang military collaboration remains vibrant.
“North Korea’s history,” according to the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, “of exporting ballistic missile technology to several countries, including Iran… illustrates its willingness to proliferate dangerous technologies.”
In a written message delivered to the 2020 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) general conference, which commenced in Vienna last week, President Trump said:
“We must ensure that Iran adheres to the commitments it made…with the IAEA to prevent it from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, and continue to work toward the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”
How the Trump administration will handle the situation, if it can, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the romance with Kim Jong-Un has ended as Trump’s stratagem to curtail Iran’s nuclear campaign have been upended by his one-time “lover.”
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.