There was a story a few days ago in the Daily Telegraph alleging that
North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.
Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Teheran’s nuclear scientists.
Thing is, the piece doesn’t seem to have a whole lot in the way of, you know, evidence:
A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October’s underground test to assist Teheran’s preparations to conduct its own — possibly by the end of this year.
There were unconfirmed reports at the time of the Korean firing that an Iranian team was present. Iranian military advisers regularly visit North Korea to participate in missile tests.
Now the long-standing military co-operation between the countries has been extended to nuclear issues.
As a result, senior western military officials are deeply concerned that the North Koreans’ technical superiority will allow the Iranians to accelerate development of their own nuclear weapon.
“The Iranians are working closely with the North Koreans to study the results of last year’s North Korean nuclear bomb test,” said the European defence official.
“We have identified increased activity at all of Iran’s nuclear facilities since the turn of the year,” he said.
“All the indications are that the Iranians are working hard to prepare for their own underground nuclear test.”
Uh-huh. I talked about the story in this RFA interview.
[By the way, the North Koreans subsequently reacted:
Their assertion is nothing but a sheer lie and fabrication intended to tarnish the image of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] by charging it with nuclear proliferation,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, quoted by the state-run KCNA news agency, said Saturday.]
Anyway, the article has a few other problems.
First, I don’t know anyone who thinks Iran can conduct a nuclear test within a year. The article does say that
Intelligence estimates vary about how long it could take Teheran to produce a nuclear warhead. But defence officials monitoring the growing co-operation between North Korea and Iran believe the Iranians could be in a position to test fire a low-grade device — less than half a kiloton — within 12 months.
But there’s no reason why the cooperation between North Korea and Iran discussed in the article would impact the US IC’s 5-10 year estimate. My understanding is that that estimate applies to Iran’s ability to produce HEU…North Korea’s program uses plutonium.
Second, I wrote this piece about Iranian/North Korean missile cooperation for the last issue of ACT. When I was doing the research/reporting for it, I didn’t come across much about nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
SecState Rice apparently agrees:
QUESTION: North Korea and Iran question. A report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper citing a senior European defense official who is nameless as saying that he believes that North Korea is providing assistance to Iran to conduct underground nuclear tests. Do you have any reason to believe that there’s anything to that?
RICE: I’ve only seen the report too, and I don’t even—I don’t know what it’s based on. I don’t see that it’s based on anything that I’ve seen.
Additionally, the NYT in October reported that
Last year the White House ordered a study of whether North Korea might share some nuclear fuel with Iran, but the report was inconclusive.
Some administration officials say they doubt that the North Koreans would take the risk. Others, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argue that the North’s record indicates that it proliferates any weapon in its arsenal. For example, it has long supplied missiles to Iran, and there have been suspicions, but no evidence, of nuclear cooperation between the countries as well.
Wanking in public is dangerous. Just saying.
Jeffrey’s take is funnier. A little.