As reports continue of Washington’s effort to deter North Korea from taking further harmful steps, it is worth reiterating the sheer scope of North Korea’s weapons exports and connection to dangerous Middle Eastern actors.
North Korea has exported huge numbers of weapons and capabilities to the Middle East over the years. Pyongyang shares no ideology with the region’s worst states and armed jihadist organizations, but is certainly keen on increasing profits, by flooding the region with arms.
Last year, I interviewed former US intelligence officer and North Korea expert Bruce Bechtol, who explained in great length how everything from Hamas’s tunnels, Hezbollah’s scud missiles, and Iran’s nuclear and missile programs all have a distinct North Korean connection.
This month, Bruce discussed North Korea’s proliferation to Syria, and its role as a key suppler of the Assad regime’s chemical program.
Key points to consider, according to Bechtol’s data:
- North Korea has played a major role in every stage of Iran’s missile program.
- Iran may be developing an “offshore” nuclear program in North Korea, and could seek to import it at a later date.
- North Korea exported chemical weapons to Iran.
- It constructed Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, and built a nuclear weapons site for Syria (the latter’s plutonium site was reportedly destroyed in an Israeli air strike in 2007).
- The Assad regime’s scud missile program relies on North Korea.
- North Korea has been a key supplier of arms for Assad’s depleted depots, including tanks, trucks, RPG launchers, and shoulder-fired missiles.
- Hezbollah has imported some weapons from North Korea, sometimes via Iran’s regional arms trafficking networks.
- North Korean engineers helped Hezbollah build many underground bunkers in Lebanon.
- Hamas installed North Korean multiple rocket launchers on pick-up trucks.
- Hamas tunnels are based on North Korean designs.
Also worth checking out: This interesting analysis by Dr. Alon Levkowitz, on Trump’s options on North Korea, and the military connections between Pyongyang, Damascus, and Tehran.