The bellicose comments and threats coming out of North Korea these days need to be taken seriously. As a key member of what George W. Bush dubbed the “Axis of Evil,” North Korea represents an enormous threat to world peace. Not only is it an immediate threat to its southern neighbour, but the potential is there for exporting of nuclear technology to other of the world’s trouble spots. In one hand North Korea holds a nuclear dagger to the throat of South Korea, while with its other hand it points a spear at American and Japanese interests.
International politics makes for strange bedfellows. Thus we should not be surprised to discover multi-billion dollar cooperation between North Korea, Iran and Syria—all of whom seem determined to acquire nuclear weapons.
Recently, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported that high-level Iranian defector Ali Reza Asghari claimed that Iran paid for a North Korean-built plutonium production facility at Kibar, Syria. An installation that was virtually identical to North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium production centre. Teheran viewed the installation in Syria as an extension of its own nuclear program. And, according to Israeli estimates, Teheran spent over a billion dollars on the project.
Ali Reza Asghari—before defecting to the United States—served as a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was a former deputy defense minister of that country, so the report is credible.
Over the past several years, Iranian nuclear officials have been on hand for all of North Korea’s major tests including its first nuclear test and its intercontinental ballistic missile test in 2006.
A week or so ago, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had successfully test-fired a Sejil-2 ballistic missile with a range of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 kilometres. And U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the test appeared to have been successful.
Apparently, North Korea has been a key player in Iran’s missile program. Western pundits claim that the Sejil-2 ballistic missile is based on Chinese technology, which Iran acquired from Pakistan. Apparently, however, Iran owes much to North Korea. For example, the Shihab-3 missile, with which Iran threatens Israel and its Arab neighbors, is an Iranian version of North Korea’s Nodong missile.
Clearly, ties between North Korea, Iran and Syria show that their joint nuclear program, with warhead, missile and technological components, is no theoretical or distant threat. Such strong links between these countries, means that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of one are WMD in the hands of all—a horrifying prospect for countries within 2,500 kilometres of any of their boundaries.
With President Barak Obama’s administration heavily weighted with “doves,” neither North Korea nor Iran have much to fear from Washington. President Obama has made it clear that he will do nothing of substance to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test, so too will the president do nothing to impede Iran’s nuclear weapon and missile delivery program.
Just as North Korea and Iran have been coordinating their program to develop weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, so too might they coordinate their threats to others in their region. Consider, for instance, North Korea threatens Japan and South Korea, while Iran threatens Israel, all with nuclear strikes. Faced with certain nuclear war, will the United States offer more than hollow words and economic sanctions in return?
My bet is that the leaders of North Korea and Iran are convinced it will not, and therein lies the real danger.