By Lee Tae-hoon
Hundreds of North Korean experts involved in the Stalinist regime’s development of nuclear and missile programs are working in major facilities across Iran, a diplomatic source said Sunday.
“We have confirmed that hundreds of North Korean engineers and scientists have been working at more than 10 nuclear and missile sites in Iran through Humint (human intelligence),” the source said. “The collaboration has been taking place for years.”
North Korea has long been suspected of helping the Islamic state with a secret weapons program.
The source said the North Korean experts are from “Office 99,” under the North’s ruling Workers’ Party Munitions Industry Department. The secret bureau is widely believed to be responsible for the Stalinist regime’s exports of weapons and military technology.
In June this year, the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun reported that Pyongyang dispatched 160 nuclear experts to Iran in an attempt to sell its nuclear and missile-related military technologies.
It claimed that the cash-strapped North was looking to sell its technology to overcome financial difficulties that have worsened since the international community slapped sanctions on it for nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Since then, arms exports have been one of the major sources of hard currency for the communist North.
The conservative newspaper noted that the North Korean experts were believed to have helped Iran remove a computer virus from its systems at some uranium enrichment facilities and a centrifugal separator.
Last week, the Sankei Shimbun also reported that Tehran and Pyongyang have been jointly operating a secret nuclear research institute in Iran, saying 10 North Korean nuclear weapon scientists are allegedly at the institute to give advice to Iranian physicists.
It went on to say that the institute received “MCNPX2.6.0,” a version of North Korea’s nuclear development software that analyzes the interaction of particles, exposure levels and other factors crucial for the construction of nuclear reactors and warheads.
Iran has thus far denied its military cooperation with the North and insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian energy purposes only.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently expressed “serious concerns” on possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.
The nuclear watchdog said in its report that it believes Iran “had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” under a “structured program” until 2003, and “some activities may still be ongoing.”