A new development in the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, and long thought to be a rogue weapons salesman, has linked the Pakistani government to the sale of nuclear technology and expertise to North Korea.
The Washington Post reported that Dr. Khan paid bribes from North Korea to senior Pakistani military officials in exchange for nuclear secrets in the 1990s. The report comes following the release of documents by Khan that document his transfer of more than US $3 million to senior officers, who later signed off on the transfer of nuclear knowledge to North Korea.
While Western intelligence officials believe the documents to be legitimate, Pakistani officials have denied the claims, calling the documents forgeries.
Khan has been in a long, ongoing dispute with the Pakistani government over their claims that he acted alone in his sale of nuclear secrets. Khan admitted in 2004 that he passed nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya, but claims that the Pakistani government knew of, and supported, his activities.
Report & Analysis: N. Korea bribed Pakistan for nuclear secrets [Channel News Asia, 7 Jul 2011]
The letter given to an American nuclear expert by Khan is said to have been written by Jon Byong Ho, North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary who the US has long suspected of being at the center of the country’s missile and nuclear weapons trade.
Some have expressed worry that the latest report may further heighten tensions between the US and Pakistan, which have been tenuous since a US commando raid on a Pakistani city that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden in May.
If legitimate, it would also call into question the integrity of the Pakistani military, the country’s most revered institution. The US has long disputed the idea that Dr. Khan could have carried out a proliferation network on his own, as it required access to military transport equipment and high-level diplomacy.
Although it has been well documented that Dr. Khan sold technology to North Korea, it has long been left unclear how exactly the North used that equipment. However, last year, North Korea showed a visiting American nuclear expert a working centrifuge facility that seems to be comprised of centrifuges produced in Pakistan. This technology transfer is helping North Korea develop capacity for uranium-based nuclear bombs, as opposed to its current plutonium-based weapons.
Report & Analysis: Pakistan army linked, in letter, to nuclear sale [New York Times, 7 Jul 2011]