Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Potential Iran-North Korea Atomic Ties Worry Experts

"Such a relationship would be logical and beneficial to both North Korea and Iran," said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear weapons analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "There are reports and rumors, which governments and the IAEA (the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency) have not denied, indicating that there may be a track record of bilateral nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran."

North Korea this year supplied Iran with U.S.-designed neutron modeling software, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in August quoted Western intelligence insiders as saying. The software can facilitate the isolation of self-perpetuating chemical activities --a key process in building atomic reactors and pursuing nuclear bombs --and the program's transfer to Iran under an accelerated joint effort could enable the Middle Eastern state to acquire key information on bomb construction, the newspaper said.

The scope and specifics of any Iranian-North Korean atomic cooperation remain unclear, though such collaboration appears likely in light of Pyongyang's dire financial situation and the increasing economic isolation faced by both states.

"It seems to be very difficult to sort out what the relationship in the nuclear world between D.P.R.K. (North Korea) and Iran is. We just simply do not know," said former Los Alamos National Laboratory chief Siegfried Hecker, who has made several trips to the North.

"They complement each other so well (in terms of their expertise). There is just a lot of synergy in how they would be able to exchange capabilities," Hecker said at a September event for diplomatic officials.

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