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Context of 'February 1998: Western Intelligence Learns North Korean Diplomat Procuring Items for Nuclear Program in Russia'

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British Customs and Excise intercepts a shipment of maraging steel bound for Pakistan via Moscow at Gatwick Airport in London. The steel could be for use in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and was to be delivered to Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean official who facilitates nuclear co-operation between Pakistan and his government. When it investigates Kang, Customs and Excise discovers that he has also brokered a deal to buy maraging steel from the All-Russian Institute of Light Alloys in Moscow, and the purchase was made on behalf of Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 279]

Entity Tags: All-Russian Institute of Light Alloys in Moscow, Kang Thae Yun, HM Customs and Excise

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Western intelligence agencies learn that Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean diplomat who facilitates nuclear co-operation between his government and Pakistan, is involved in negotiations between the Pakistan-based Tabani Corporation and a Russian company that makes mass spectrometers, lasers, and carbon fiber. They also learn he is discussing a purchase of maraging steel, which can be used in a nuclear program, but this steel is for his own government. The knowledge spurs MI6 and the CIA to increase their efforts to find out whether the North Koreans have established a cascade to weaponize uranium using technology obtained from Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 279-180]

Entity Tags: UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Central Intelligence Agency, Tabani Corporation, Kang Thae Yun

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

A Korean diplomat’s wife named Kim Sa-nae is shot dead outside a guest house associated with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan. Government officials claim it was a tragic accident and that she was simply caught in a crossfire resulting from a domestic dispute. However, the US discovers that the woman had been shot execution-style and was the wife of Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean who was the economic counsellor at its embassy in Pakistan. Kang is already on the US nuclear watch-list and, based on interviews conducted by the CIA, the US comes to believes that Pakistan’s ISI had her killed because she was preparing to pass on sensitive material about nuclear transfers between Pakistan and North Korea to Western contacts. This theory is supported by the fact that Kang represented the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (CSC), also known as the North Korean Mining Development Trading Corporation, which had shipped No-dong missiles to Pakistan in 1994 (see January 1994). In addition, defectors have said that the most important job of North Korean embassies around the world is to help efforts to seek nuclear technology and this was Kang’s primary role in Islamabad, where he frequently visited Khan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 276-277] Kang disappears from Pakistan around the time his wife’s body is flown home to North Korea (see Mid-June 1998).

Entity Tags: Kim Sa-nae, Kang Thae Yun, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, North Korean Mining Development Trading Corporation

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The warehouse at Djerf al Nadaf.The warehouse at Djerf al Nadaf. [Source: CBS News]MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, cables the CIA informing the agency that it “is not convinced that Curveball is a wholly reliable source” and that “elements of [his] behavior strike us as typical of… fabricators,” according to a later investigation by the US Senate. The British also note that satellite images taken in 1997 when Curveball was presumably working at Djerf al Nadaf contradict his descriptions of the facility. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005] However, the CIA ignores the British caveat, and after the Bush administration decides to invade Iraq, Curveball’s information is used to bolster the case for war (see February 5, 2003). As reporter Bob Drogin, author of the 2007 book Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War, will say, “[T]he CIA heard what it wanted to hear. It saw what it wanted to see. And it told the president what he wanted to hear. Time and again, intelligence officials discounted contradictory information, filled in gaps, and made up the dots to reach the conclusion they wanted. In part, they were caught up in the climate of fear after 9/11 and felt they couldn’t afford to underestimate a possible threat. In part, there was a clear understanding by late 2002 that we were going to war and it would make no difference, and probably would hurt your career, if you tried to get in the way. But mostly, I think incompetence and poor leadership allowed unconfirmed and unreliable information to move up the chain of command. Those few intelligence officers who tried to raise red flags, or issue warnings, either were ignored or treated like heretics.” [Alternet, 10/22/2007]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst, Bob Drogin, Bush administration (43), UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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