WP: N. Korea bribed Pakistan for nuke secrets

This satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and taken Wednesday Sept. 29, 2010 shows the Yongbyon nuclear complex in Yongbyon, North Korea. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
AP Photo/Digital Globe
Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, center, arrives to attend funeral of his brother in Karachi, Pakistan on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010.
AP Photo

North Korea may not have the world's top scientists, but it does have some of the shrewdest geopolitical operatives, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, says he has documents proving North Korean officials paid top members of Pakistan's military establishment about $3 million in the late 1990s to obtain the know-how necessary to make a nuclear bomb, the Post reports.

Western intelligence officials have long suspected this was how North Korea got its hands on a nuclear bomb, and some told the Post they believe Khan's letters proving the transaction are probably authentic.

Jehangir Karamat, a former Pakistani military chief named as the recipient of the $3 million payment, told the Post that the letter implicating him is untrue and that Khan, long accused of trading favors for illicit nuclear proliferation, was trying "to shift blame on others."

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Accusations both within and outside of Pakistan that Khan has long been selling off Pakistan's nuclear secrets are indeed old news. He lives a suspiciously "lavish" lifestyle, according to some intelligence analysts who talked to the Post, and it has been discovered that he has overseas bank accounts with millions stashed away.

Whatever the truth, the accusations would fit the bigger picture for North Korea, which has long played outside the boundaries of generally acceptable international standards.

The North Korean government has been accused of exporting missile technology, and maybe worse, to several sanctioned international states, including Myanmar (Burma) and Iran.

North Korea has reportedly twice tested nuclear bombs, once in 2006 and again in 2009, and is thought to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen weapons. Due to the closed nature of the country and the fact that any successes from the tests were self-reported, it is impossible to know just how functional North Korea's nuclear weapons are.

Still, South Korea has warned that their northern neighbors may already possess the technology necessary to put a nuclear warhead on top of a missile.

  • Joshua Norman

    Joshua Norman is a Senior Editor at CBSNews.com.