A Paris-based Iranian opposition group called the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claims that teams of North Korean “nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems” have made several visits to Iran, most recently in April.
Reuters establishes the group’s bona fides by reporting it “exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say it has a mixed track record and a clear political agenda. Iran says allegations of nuclear bomb research are baseless and forged by its enemies.”
The NCRI says it has multiple sources inside Iran who described the meetings between North Korean Defense Ministry agents and Iranian officials.
As Reuters points out, this is not the first time coordination between Pyongyang and Tehran on illegal weapons has been alleged, and some of the allegations came from the United Nations.
“The NCRI said the North Korean delegation was taken secretly to the Imam Khomenei complex, a site controlled by the Defence Ministry, east of Tehran. It gave detailed accounts of locations and who the officials met,” Reuters reports. “It said the delegation dealt with the Centre for Research and Design of New Aerospace Technology, a unit of nuclear weaponization research and planning center called the Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), which is under United States sanctions. NCRI said the unit researches and manufactures interior parts of nuclear warheads.”
The North Koreans probably did not even have to wear blindfolds when visiting the site, the way the Iranian foreign minister said Western nuclear inspectors should be treated.
An NCRI spokesman charged that Iran’s nuclear weapons program “is continuing, and they have not slowed down the progress.”
Reuters makes clear that the NCRI is the only participant willing to talk about it: “U.N. watchdog the IAEA, which for years has been investigating alleged nuclear arms research by Tehran, declined to comment. Iranian officials declined to comment. North Korean officials were not available for comment. Several Western officials said they were not aware of a North Korean delegation traveling to Iran recently.”
As Forbes notes, North Korea has “hyped its program for submarine-launched missiles, threatened to fire without warning on South Korean ships in disputed waters, threatened America’s ambassador to Seoul with a ‘bigger mishap’ than the knife attack he suffered in March, and bragged of having already succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear warheads — which would allow for missile delivery of nuclear bombs.”
The North Koreans are growing more emboldened and hostile as they watch Iran humiliate American negotiators. The claims of the NCRI should be vigorously vetted, as with all third-party intelligence, but it is quite plausible Kim Jong-Un would send technical experts to Iran to discuss mutually profitable strategies for getting the mullahs those atomic weapons they want so much, well ahead of the ten-year schedule President Obama is already willing to grant them.