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Context of '1997: US Detects North Korean Interest in Uranium Enrichment, Links to A. Q. Khan Network'

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A. Q. Khan starts work for an engineering company called Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), which is based in the Netherlands. He obtains the job, evaluating high-strength metals to be used for centrifuge components, through a former university classmate and a recommendation from his old professor, Martin Brabers. FDO is a subcontractor for a company called Urenco. Urenco owns an enrichment facility and was established in 1970 by the governments of Britain, West Germany, and the Netherlands to manufacture top-quality centrifuges that can be used to produce highly-enriched uranium for use in power plants and nuclear weapons.
Khan Obtains Security Clearance - Khan obtains a security clearance with minimal background checks because he tells investigators he intends to become a Dutch citizen. However, he finds that security is lax and he has access to areas that should be denied him. For example, less than a week after he is hired, he visits the centrifuges, although he does not have clearance to see them. He obtains access to data about them and is also asked to help translate sensitive documents, as he has lived in various European countries and can speak several languages. Khan is allowed to take the documents home, even though this is a clear violation of security protocols. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 46-7)
Studied in Europe, Developed Network of Contacts - Prior to being hired by FDO, Khan had studied in Europe for some time. First he attended a series of lectures about metallurgy at the Technical University in West Berlin in 1962, then obtained a master’s degree in engineering from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands in 1967, and received his doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1971. His studies in Europe will later turn out to be useful when he starts a nuclear smuggling ring. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will comment, “Along the way the affable Pakistani had developed a wide range of contacts, including individuals who would later emerge as part of his smuggling network.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 22-25; Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 46-7)

After Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan agrees to help Pakistan obtain the technology to make a nuclear bomb (see Summer-Autumn 1974), he begins to steal secrets from a Dutch company he works for to help them. Khan is asked to help translate a top-secret report on the G2 centrifuge, a major advance in uranium enrichment technology. To this end, he is assigned to a high-security section of the company, but the strict security procedures are ignored and he has free access for 16 days to the company’s main centrifuge plant. He takes full advantage of the situation, noting down details of the various processes. Around this time, neighbors also notice that Khan is receiving late-night visits from French and Belgian cars with diplomatic license plates, presumably Pakistani contacts to whom Khan is passing the secrets. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 50-1)

Following the commencement of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program (see After February 15, 1975), A. Q. Khan meets program head Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood in Belgium and then begins to steal an unprecedented amount of information from the company he works for, a European nuclear company called Urenco, to support the program. According to authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento: “Khan sent everything from centrifuge designs and technical literature to parts and lists of suppliers. He even sent blueprints of an entire uranium enrichment facility. In at least one instance, Khan sent [an associate] a discarded component from a uranium centrifuge.” He evens asks a photographer he shares an office with to photograph some centrifuges and components. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 53-4)

Frits Veerman, a photographer who works with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan at the nuclear equipment manufacturer Urenco, becomes suspicious of Khan, and attempts to warn the company. Veerman becomes suspicious because Khan keeps asking him to photograph centrifuges and components, evidently so he can send the photographs back to Pakistan. When Veerman visits Khan’s house, he sees highly classified centrifuge designs lying around. He also meets other Pakistanis at the house, and will later learn they are agents working under diplomatic cover. His suspicions aroused, Veerman warns Urenco of this repeatedly. However, the company denies there is a problem and tells Veerman not to make allegations against a superior. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 54)

The BVD, a Dutch intelligence service, begins investigating A. Q. Khan over suspicions he is passing on nuclear secrets from the uranium enrichment company Urenco, for which he works, to Pakistan. The investigation starts because of two incidents. In the first, the Pakistani embassy in Belgium uses a report that appears to have come from one of Urenco’s owners to order specialized wrapping foil for centrifuges from Metalimphy, a French company. Metalimphy checks with Urenco’s owner, which says that the report belongs to it, and should not be in the Pakistanis’ hands. The BVD then learns that Khan was asking suspicious questions at a trade fair in Switzerland about atomic weapons. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 54)

Ruud Lubbers.Ruud Lubbers. [Source: ru(.nl)]After the BVD, a Dutch intelligence agency, informs the CIA that it intends to arrest A. Q. Khan over the passage of nuclear secrets to Pakistan (see Mid-October 1975), the CIA tells the Dutch to let Khan continue with his activities. Former Dutch Minister of Economc Affairs Ruud Lubbers will say, “The Americans wished to follow and watch Khan to get more information.” Lubbers questions this and the CIA tells him to block Khan’s access to the secrets, which the Dutch do by promoting him to a job where he no longer has access to sensitive data from the uranium enrichment company Urenco. Lubbers will later suggest that the real reason the US does not want Khan arrested is because of its interest in helping Pakistan, an enemy of Soviet-leaning India. Because Khan no longer has access to the sensitive data after his promotion, the CIA cannot find out anything by monitoring him. In addition, the promotion alerts Khan to the fact he may be under surveillance, and he flees to Pakistan in mid-December. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment: “What no one yet realized was that Khan had already absconded with the plans for almost every centrifuge on Urenco’s drawing board, including the all-important G-2 [centrifuge]. It would prove to be one of the greatest nuclear heists of all time.” (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 54)

After returning from the Netherlands, where he had stolen secrets to help Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program but was under investigation by the authorities (see March-December 15, 1975 and November 1975), Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is formally hired to assist with Pakistan’s program to build nuclear weapons. The hiring results from a report by Khan to Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto about the state of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program. After touring the country’s enrichment facility, Khan tells Bhutto that the program is in a bad state, and Bhutto offers Khan a managerial position. When Bhutto is told that Khan has accepted the position, he reportedly pounds his fist on the table and declares, “I will see the Hindu bastards now.” Because of the knowledge Khan has gained during his time in Europe, he soon becomes well respected within the project. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 56-57)

Pakistan nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains more information from employees at the Dutch company Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory about centrifuges it is developing for the European nuclear power industry. Khan needs the information for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan previously worked for the company (see May 1, 1972), stole secrets from it (see October 1974), and the Dutch authorities are aware of this (see Mid-October 1975). The Dutch government learns that company staff have been visiting Pakistan no later than the second half of 1976. While the Dutch discuss what information may have been stolen, Khan continues to receive help from two Pakistani quality inspectors at the company who will later be found to be “active helpers of Khan.” (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 67)

After Frits Veerman, an employee at Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), learns of an attempt by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to steal more nuclear secrets from the Netherlands (see July 1976), he informs his supervisor at the company of the attempted theft. He also gives his supervisor a letter Khan had sent him detailing what secrets Khan wanted from Veerman, but the supervisor tells Veerman that if he does not destroy the letter he will be arrested. FDO informs the Dutch authorities of the case, and they arrest Veerman, accusing him of spying. In response, Veerman, who had repeatedly warned his superiors of Khan’s activities (see Mid-1975), then accuses the Dutch authorities of allowing the export of dangerous technology from the Netherlands. Veerman is released after two days and told, “You may not talk about this to anyone,” because “[i]t is dangerous for the Netherlands.” (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 66)

The West German television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcasts a documentary naming A. Q. Khan as the head of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. It also reports that the program is using blueprints stolen from a Dutch plant where Khan had previously worked (see May 1, 1972, October 1974, and March-December 15, 1975). Prior to the documentary, Khan had been a relatively obscure figure, but the story of his activities now becomes big news in both Europe and North America. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 57)

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs drafts a memo urging that the government of the Netherlands cover up its actions in regard of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan’s role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons efforts has recently been revealed by a German television program (see March 28, 1979), which highlighted how Khan stole nuclear secrets while working in the Netherlands (see May 1, 1972, October 1974, and March-December 15, 1975). The Ministry of Economic Affairs memo states, “It is of the highest priority [to claim] that from the Netherlands, there is not a single contribution to the Pakistani effort.” However, the Dutch government has known the allegations are true for years, but has kept this secret, initially ignored warnings, and even harassed a colleague who blew the whistle on Khan (see Mid-1975, Mid-October 1975, November 1975, July 1976, Second Half of 1976, and (August 1976)). The Dutch government decides in line with the memo, and issues an interim report whitewashing Khan’s actions in the Netherlands. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 57)

Fearing a diplomatic incident, CIA and other US agents rarely venture into Afghanistan. Generally speaking, soldiers from the British elite Special Air Service (SAS) work with and train the mujaheddin instead. The SAS provides weapons training in Afghanistan until 1982 when Russian soldiers find the passports of two British instructors in a training camp. After that, mujaheddin are trained in secret camps in remote parts of Scotland. When the US decides to supply Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin in 1986, it is the SAS who provide the training in how to use them (see September 1986). But the SAS is taking orders from the CIA. The CIA also indirectly gives weapons to Osama bin Laden and other mujaheddin leaders. One former US intelligence official will say in 1999, “[US agents] armed [bin Laden’s] men by letting him pay rock-bottom prices for basic weapons.” But this person notes the relationship will later prove to be embarrassing to bin Laden and the CIA. “Of course it’s not something they want to talk about.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 168)

At some time in 1981, Pakistan begins digging some tunnels under the Ras Koh mountains. The work is apparently related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which begins preparation for a cold test of a nuclear weapon this year (see Shortly After May 1, 1981). This work is noticed by both India and Israel, who also see other signs that work is continuing on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Tunnels in these mountains will be used when Pakistan tests nuclear weapons in 1998 (see May 28, 1998). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 86, 275)

A. Q. Khan.A. Q. Khan. [Source: CBC]A Dutch court sentences A. Q. Khan to four years in jail after convicting him in absentia for espionage. Khan denies that he stole plans from URENCO, a maker of uranium enrichment centrifuges, when he worked there translating documents in the 1970s. Khan was employed by Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, or FDO, a company that was sub-contracted by the URENCO consortium. (Windrem 2004; CNN 2/5/2004)

The conviction of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan on charges of attempted espionage in the Netherlands is overturned on appeal. Khan had been sentenced to four years in prison in 1983 for stealing nuclear secrets from a European company (see March-December 15, 1975 and 1983), but the original verdict is overturned because the summons enabling Khan to respond to the charges was not properly served. On national television in Pakistan, Khan declares he is “vindicated” by the appeal court. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 67)

In 1985, US Congress passes legislation requiring US economic sanctions on Pakistan unless the White House can certify that Pakistan has not embarked on a nuclear weapons program (see August 1985 and August 1985). The White House certifies this every year until 1990 (see 1987-1989). However, it is known all the time that Pakistan does have a continuing nuclear program. For instance, in 1983 a State Department memo said Pakistan clearly has a nuclear weapons program that relies on stolen European technology. Pakistan successfully builds a nuclear bomb in 1987 but does not test it to keep it a secret (see 1987). With the Soviet-Afghan war ending in 1989, the US no longer relies on Pakistan to contain the Soviet Union. So in 1990 the Pakistani nuclear program is finally recognized and sweeping sanctions are applied (see June 1989). (Gannon 2005) Journalist Seymour Hersh will comment, “The certification process became farcical in the last years of the Reagan Administration, whose yearly certification—despite explicit American intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program—was seen as little more than a payoff to the Pakistani leadership for its support in Afghanistan.” (Hersh 3/29/1993) The government of Pakistan will keep their nuclear program a secret until they successfully test a nuclear weapon in 1998 (see May 28, 1998).

The CIA advises Dutch authorities to back off the case of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who had stolen nuclear secrets in the Netherlands for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see March-December 15, 1975). Khan had been convicted by a Dutch court (see 1983), but the conviction was overturned on appeal due to a technicality (see 1985), and the Dutch are considering reopening the case. Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers will later say that the US wants Khan to be left alone because Pakistan is a key US ally in the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The CIA had told the Dutch to back off Khan once before (see November 1975) (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 67)

Mujaheddin preparing to fire a stinger missile.Mujaheddin preparing to fire a stinger missile. [Source: National Geographic]Worried that the Soviets are winning the war in Afghanistan, the US decides to train and arm the mujaheddin with Stinger missiles. The Soviets are forced to stop using the attack helicopters that were being used to devastating effect. Some claim the Stingers turn the tide of the war and lead directly to Soviet withdrawal. Now the mujaheddin are better trained and armed than ever before. (Coll 2004, pp. 11, 149-51; Clarke 2004, pp. 48-50) The British Special Air Service (SAS) train the mujaheddin in how to use the Stingers (see 1980-1989).

Essam al Ridi, a US-based Muslim who supports the mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan War, helps the CIA obtain photographs of a downed Russian helicopter, according to a statement al Ridi will later make to the New York Times. Al Ridi is an associate of leading Islamists Abdullah Azzam (see Early 1983-Late 1984 and Early 1989) and Osama bin Laden (see 1984 and Early 1993), and helps them purchase weapons. Al Ridi will help the FBI after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see October 1998). (Miller 6/3/2002) The CIA introduced stinger missiles into the war in late September 1986 to great effect against Soviet helicopters (see September 1986). (Coll 2004, pp. 149-151) Presumably therefore, the CIA is asking al Ridi to get photos of a helicopter downed by a stinger shortly after they were introduced.

Pakistan successfully builds a nuclear weapon around this year. The bomb is built largely thanks to the illegal network run by A. Q. Khan. Pakistan will not actually publicly announce this or test the bomb until 1998 (see May 28, 1998), partly because of a 1985 US law imposing sanctions on Pakistan if it were to develop nuclear weapons (see August 1985-October 1990). (Hersh 2004, pp. 291) However, Khan will tell a reporter the program has been successful around this time (see March 1987).

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan supplies North Korea with some basic technology for its nuclear program. The equipment is to be used for enriching uranium, but the Koreans are unable to make full use of the technology as they do not have the technical expertise to master the process alone. This causes co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea on nuclear matters to stall, until it is revived some years later (see Late 1990 or After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 220)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto refuses to visit North Korea during her first term in office. Bhutto will later say that she is pressured to go by her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and there may be some link to co-operation on the two countries’ nuclear programs (see Late 1980s). Bhutto resists the pressure for fear it will generate adverse publicity in Western countries. However, Bhutto will go to North Korea in her second term in order to facilitate nuclear proliferation (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 244)

Pakistan sends a Stinger missile to North Korea. Pakistan obtained the Stinger from the US, which provided them to Pakistani-backed rebels during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s (see September 1986). The missile is partly intended as a gift for the North Koreans—an incentive for the revival of co-operation between the two countries, which has been stalled for some time (see Late 1980s). In addition, the Stingers held by Pakistan are becoming useless, because their batteries are failing, and the Pakistanis hope that the North Koreans will be able to help them reverse engineer the batteries. The mission to North Korea is undertaken by ISI Director Javed Nasir at the behest of Pakistani army chief Mirza Aslam Beg and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who will later become closely involved in co-operation with the North Koreans. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 220)

Nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan discusses purchasing No-dong missiles with North Korea’s foreign minister, Kim Yong-nam, who is visiting Pakistan. Khan wants the missiles because he is competing with another Pakistani organization, the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), in missile design, and is losing the competition. The PAEC started designing nuclear-capable missiles before Khan, and can produce missiles with a longer range. The No-dong missiles would enable Khan to leapfrog the PAEC, as they are long-range ballistic missiles that would be able to strike deep inside India. Khan says that Pakistan could purchase the missiles, or the two countries could negotiate an agreement under which Pakistan would give North Korea nuclear weapons technology in exchange for the missiles. An agreement will eventually be reached (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 244-245)

North Korea test fires a long-range No-dong missile, and the test is attended by a Pakistani delegation, including nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and one of his associates, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik. Khan and the North Koreans have been discussing the conditions under which Pakistan might acquire the missiles for some time (see August 1992). The missile is said to have a range of 800 miles and to be able to carry a payload weighing 1000 kg. Although the missile is not yet able to carry a nuclear warhead, Khan believes adapting it to do so will not be a problem. Khan will eventually conclude a deal for the missiles through Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 245)

Nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan calls Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to get her approval for a takeover by Khan of a factory in Karachi. The factory, the People’s Steel Mill, had been closed down due to poor management and corruption. Bhutto will say she is surprised that Khan calls her at all: “Frankly, I was shocked. I had got used to not hearing from him.” According to Bhutto, “He said he could do something really hi-tech there that would aid all aspects of life but particularly his program at KRL [Khan Research Laboratories].” Bhutto agrees and the plant soon becomes a key component in Khan’s nuclear program. At the same time, Bhutto also agrees to go to North Korea to facilitate co-operation between the two countries’ nuclear programs (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 244)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto agrees to visit North Korea at the request of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan asked Bhutto to go because he wanted more powerful missiles to carry nuclear weapons he has designed “into the depths of India.” Bhutto will later say she was shielded from Pakistan’s nuclear program and did not know about Pakistan’s missile capability until Khan told her. She will later describe her reply to Khan’s request: “I wanted it to be known that I would not stand in the military’s way, and when Khan told me that only a country like North Korea could provide the kind of intercontinental missiles we needed, I thought there was no harm in it. But I did tell him I would not give him the money to develop these missiles. I believed in parity. India had not escalated by creating such missiles, I thought, so Pakistan would not do so either.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 244)

Husein Haqqani, an aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, tells her that a planned trip to North Korea at the request of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to facilitate nuclear co-operation between the two countries (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After) is a bad idea and she should not go. Haqqani will later say: “North Korea was an outlaw state, with few morals or qualms about trading in anything illicit and it was at loggerheads with the US. I told her the military and Khan were trying to trick her and that we should not be doing arms deals with [North Korea]. But she ignored me and asked me to accompany her. I cried off. I let a colleague go in my place. I let him think I was giving him a chance when I was actually watching my own back. All I kept thinking was, what happens many years down the line when this trip to North Korea is gone over? Such a thing could ruin a career. There was this bad smell about it.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 245)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits North Korea after being asked to do so by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to help co-operation between the two countries on nuclear weapons and delivery systems (see Shortly Before December 29, 1993 and Shortly Before December 29, 1993).
Speech - At a formal dinner with North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, Bhutto says: “Nuclear non-proliferation should not be used as a pretext for preventing states from exercising fully their right to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes geared to their economic and social development.” She adds: “Pakistan is committed to nuclear non-proliferation both at the global and regional level. It is not fair to cast doubts on Pakistan’s interests and to subject Pakistan to discriminatory treatment.”
Deal - Bhutto then asks Kim for blueprints for missiles that can deliver Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in a potential strike on India. Kim is surprised, but Bhutto emphasizes that “We need those missiles.” Kim agrees and proposes setting up technical teams, giving her information on computer discs to take home with her the next day.
Something More? - However, Bhutto will later remark: “They gave me a bag of materials. Kim said the teams each side selected would do the deal, whatever the deal was to be. I really had little idea of what they were discussing. I did wonder, though. Was it only missiles? They said it was to be a cash deal.” Bhutto will also say that General Khawaja Ziauddin, a close associate of Khan, was in charge of the deal for the Pakistanis.
Framed? - When Bhutto returns to Pakistan, she meets with one of her aides, Husein Haqqani, and shows him the bag of materials. Haqqani will later comment: “They could have been anything. It horrified me and I said so. She sensed then that the military had framed her. Her fingerprints were all over whatever their plan was for North Korea.” Bhutto gives the bag to Ziauddin, but will later say: “As far as I knew, the deal involved buying No-dong missiles for cash. But when I requested more information, the military clammed up.” After this trip, Bhutto is apparently not closely involved in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and is even unable to obtain information about its budget. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 247-249)

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan begins a series of more than a dozen trips to North Korea. By 1998 Khan will be traveling to Pyongyang several times a month. The trips, supervised by Pakistani General Khawaja Ziauddin, follow an agreement concluded by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the North Koreans to supply Khan with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads designed by Khan deep inside India (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). Khan presumably travels to North Korea to facilitate the acquisition of the missiles, although he may also be passing on nuclear secrets to the North Koreans. Khan is accompanied by one of his key associates, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, whose son Dr. Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman will tell journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark of the trips in 2006. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 249-250, 278, 510)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto claims that her country does not have a nuclear weapons program in an interview with British entertainer David Frost. “We have neither detonated nor have we got nuclear weapons,” she says. “Being a responsible state and a state committed to non-proliferation, we in Pakistan, through five successive governments, have taken a policy decision to follow a peaceful nuclear program.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will describe Frost as “incredulous” at hearing this denial. They will add: “It was a lie. She knew it.” The Pakistani military keeps many of the details of the program from Bhutto, but she is aware of the outline and even went on a mission to North Korea to get missiles to deliver locally-produced warheads the previous year (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 255-256, 511)

A North Korean delegation visits Pakistan to discuss co-operation between the two countries. The delegation is led by Choe Kwang, vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, minister of the people’s armed forces, and marshal of the Korean People’s Army, who is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear procurement program.
Kwang Tours Pakistani Nuclear Facilities, Meets Pakistani Officials - General Wahid Kakar, chief of Pakistan’s army, takes Kwang on a tour of Pakistan’s leading nuclear weapons facility, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), although security there is very strict and foreigners are generally not allowed near it. Kwang also visits a secret missile production facility near Faisalabad and a missile test site near Jhelum, in the northern Punjab. Additionally, Kwang meets Pakistani President Farooq Leghari, Defense Minister Aftab Shaban Mirani, and high-ranking military officials.
Agreement to Provide More Missiles - During the visit, North Korea signs an agreement to provide Pakistan with fuel tanks, rocket engines, and between 12 and 25 complete No-dong missiles, which can be used against India. The arms are to be produced by the Fourth Machine Industry Bureau of the Second Economic Committee and delivered to KRL the next spring by the North Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, a front for North Korea’s nuclear procurement network. In return, KRL boss A. Q. Khan is to host North Korean missile experts in a joint training program. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 250, 510)

Pakistan, which owes North Korea US$ 40 million for No-dong missiles it has purchased (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After and November 19-24, 1995), tells the North Koreans it does not have the money and cannot pay for them. Instead, the Pakistanis offer North Korea a uranium enrichment plant, a proposal first discussed by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and North Korea’s foreign minister Kim Yong-nam in 1992 (see August 1992). Israeli intelligence is monitoring Khan’s procurement network and learns of the proposal. It informs the US government, but the US does not show any special interest. General Moshe Ya’alon, who will later be chief of staff in the Israeli Defense Force, will comment: “I remember saying to the Americans some time in 1995 or 1996, ‘How to do think Pakistan is going to pay for all those No-dong missiles?’ But I was shouting myself hoarse. Nobody wanted to know.” According to North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop (see 1997), the deal between Pakistan and North Korea is concluded in the summer of 1996 during a visit to Korea by a technical delegation from Khan Research Laboratories. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 256-257, 281)

The Chon Sung, a North Korean ship bound for Pakistan, is held in Taiwan. Fifteen tons of rocket propellants are discovered on board. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 260, 512) The propellants are being shipped under an agreement for North Korea to assist Pakistan with its nuclear missile program (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After and November 19-24, 1995).

British and American intelligence agencies warn their governments of Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation activities, according to senior sources at the British Foreign Office and the CIA. One of the warnings states that Pakistan is “readying itself to sell or [is] selling already” to North Korea and possibly Iran. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 260, 512)

The United Nations adopts the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning the testing of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly votes 158-3 to adopt the CTBT, with India (see June 20, 1996), Bhutan, and Libya voting against it, and Cuba, Lebanon, Syria, Mauritius, and Tanzania abstaining. US President Bill Clinton will be the first to sign the treaty, followed by 70 other nations, including Britain, China, France, and Russia. By November 1997, 148 nations will sign the treaty. (Nuclear Threat Initiative 4/2003; Federation of American Scientists 12/18/2007) In 1999, the Times of India will observe that from the US’s viewpoint, the CTBT will primarily restrict India and Pakistan from continuing to develop their nuclear arsenals (see May 11-13, 1998 and May 28, 1998), and will delay or prevent China from developing more technologically advanced “miniaturized” nuclear weapons such as the US already has. It will also “prevent the vertical proliferation and technological refinement of existing arsenals by the other four nuclear weapons states.” (Varadarajan 10/16/1999) Two years later, the US Senate will refuse to ratify the treaty (see October 13, 1999).

The US begins to detect that North Korea is interested in obtaining uranium enrichment technology, so that it can acquire the capacity to build a uranium bomb. North Korea’s plutonium activities were frozen in 1994, following an international agreement. Robert Gallucci, a special envoy working for President Clinton, will say he is not surprised by this and expected the North Koreans to try this route after freezing their plutonium activities. He will say: “[B]y 1997 we began to focus on information about enrichment shopping by the North Koreans. [Pakistani scientist A. Q.] Khan was an exceptionally busy person. And believe me, we knew the difference between missile deals and enrichment parts as well as the generals did in Pakistan. It was parts for gas centrifuges that Pak was trading and the North Koreans were buying, simple as that. We were on to them even though it was not yet a large-scale operation. But the CIA always said, ‘let it run.’” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 280)

Peter Griffin, a British businessman who has been working with the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network for two decades (see Summer 1976), sets up a company called Gulf Technical Industries (GTI) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company’s establishment is a result of an order one of Khan’s other associates, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, has told Griffin he will place with him. Tahir first mentioned the order, said to be worth $10 million, in 1994 (see May 1994), but nothing had come of it then. Tahir now says that the deal, which he claims is for a machine shop to produce spare parts for the Libyan National Oil Company, is back on. As a result of Tahir’s inquiry, Griffin moves back to Dubai with his wife Anna and starts the company up. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 366)

US and British intelligence based on satellite imagery shows that by this time there are regular flights between Pyongyang and Islamabad, the capitals of North Korea and Pakistan. Most of the flights are made by large Ilyushin-76 transport planes. This clearly indicates deliveries are being made from one country to another, although it is not evident from the imagery what the content of the deliveries is. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 261) Other intelligence indicates that at this time Pakistan is swapping uranium enrichment technology for North Korean missiles (see 1997).

The US begins to send Pakistan a series of demarches complaining about its nuclear proliferation activities. The sending of the demarches follows the receipt of intelligence about nuclear deals between Pakistan and North Korea. North Korea’s plutonium program is in abeyance at this time, but it has begun a uranium enrichment project and the US is aware of this. However, according to State Department official Robert Einhorn, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is never mentioned in the demarches, at the CIA’s request. The CIA wants Khan’s proliferation network to continue to run and is worried that mentioning him in them would tip him off to what the CIA knows. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 280)

US spy satellites photograph North Korean technical and telemetry crews arriving at Sargodha air force base in Pakistan. Sargodha is a forward storage facility for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and is home to its fleet of F-16s, which can be used to deliver nuclear weapons during a strike on India. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 277) Additional North Koreans will visit the facility the next month (see March 1998).

Two North Korean military officials, its chief of staff and the head of its strategic forces, visit Sargodha air force base in Pakistan. Sargodha is used for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and North Korean technicians are already present there (see February 1998). The US learns of this visit and concludes that the North Koreans have won access to Pakistan’s range facilities as a part of co-operation between the two countries on nuclear missile technology, which dates back several years (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 277)

India, which has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning nuclear testing (see September 10, 1996), shocks the world by testing five nuclear devices over the course of three days. The largest is a 42-kiloton thermonuclear device. (Federation of American Scientists 12/18/2007) India’s rival Pakistan will conduct its own nuclear tests two weeks later (see May 28, 1998). Indian political scientist and nuclear critic Kanti Bajpai will later say: “Whatever Indians say officially, there is a status attached to the bomb. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all nuclear powers.” (Keller 5/4/2003)

Pakistan’s first nuclear  test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it.Pakistan’s first nuclear test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton administration official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Pakistan actually built its first nuclear weapon in 1987 but kept it a secret and did not test it until this time for political reasons (see 1987). In announcing the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declares, “Today, we have settled the score.” (Keller 5/4/2003)

Pakistan conducts the sixth and last of a series of nuclear bomb tests that started two days earlier (see May 28, 1998). Samples taken by US aircraft over the site indicate that the test may have involved plutonium, whereas uranium bombs were used for the other five. After the US learns that the tests are witnessed by Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean involved in that country’s proliferation network (see Early June 1998), and other North Korean officials, it will speculate that the final test was performed by Pakistan for North Korea, which is better known for its plutonium bomb program. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “In terms of nuclear readiness, this placed North Korea far ahead of where the CIA had thought it was, since [North Korea] had yet to conduct any hot tests of its own.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 278)

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).

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan takes five pieces of luggage, including two large crates that nobody is allowed to check, to North Korea. The crates contain P-1 and P-2 centrifuges for enriching uranium, drawings, technical data, and uranium hexafluoride, which is needed to start the uranium enrichment process. Khan takes the goods on a plane belonging to Shaheen Air International, which makes regular flights between North Korea and Pakistan to facilitate nuclear technology transfers (see (1998 and Possibly After)). The stated purpose of the flight is to carry the body of Kim Sa-nae, a North Korean diplomat’s wife who was recently murdered in Pakistan (see Early June 1998). The diplomat, Kang Thae Yun, is said to be involved in North Korea’s nuclear proliferation attempts and disappears around the time of this flight. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 278)

The White House convenes a small team of senior officials to look behind the nuclear program of North Korea, which appears to be attempting to start a uranium enrichment program, and focuses on Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan travels to Pyongyang several times a month and, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, he is the “most visible common denominator” in Pakistan’s proliferation network and “a flag to be followed.” Levy and Scott-Clark point out that, although the US has been aware of Khan’s activities for over two decades (see November 1975), this is the “first serious attempt at interdicting the Pakistani operation.”
Experienced Officials Head Team - The officials include Robert Gallucci, President Clinton’s special envoy on ballistic weapons and WMD, who has been monitoring Pakistan’s nuclear program for 20 years and had helped negotiate an agreement with North Korea in 1994. Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, and Gary Samore, a senior director for non-proliferation at the National Security Council, are also on the team.
Problems - However, there are some initial problems. For example, the officials already have so much work that one will characterize it as a “five minute [info] dump on Khan.” Levy and Scott-Clark will comment: “There was a surfeit of material, much of it higgledy-piggledy, since over the years no organized overview had been taken of Pakistan’s illicit trade. Instead, a multiplicity of agencies in intelligence, defense, and foreign affairs had all assigned analysts to work on the Khan conundrum, stovepiping what they discovered, so no one agency knew everything.”
More than Missiles - The group soon receives evidence showing that the dealings between North Korea and Pakistan do not involve just missiles, but also uranium enrichment technology (see 1997, 1998, (1998 and Possibly After), February 1998, February 1998 or Shortly After, Early June 1998, and Mid-June 1998). Einhorn will later say: “In 1998 we began to get some information of North Korean-Pakistani deals that went way beyond missiles. There was a nuclear dimension to this arrangement. There were Pakistani and North Korean weapons specialists getting together, including people from KRL [Khan Research Laboratories]. There was a pattern to the interactions.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 278-280)

Congressional conservatives receive a second “alternative assessment” of the nuclear threat facing the US that is far more to their liking than previous assessments (see December 23, 1996). A second “Team B” panel (see November 1976), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and made up of neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, finds that, contrary to earlier findings, the US faces a growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, who can, the panel finds, inflict “major destruction on the US within about five years of a decision.” This threat is “broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly” than previously believed. The Rumsfeld report also implies that either Iran or North Korea, or perhaps both, have already made the decision to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan has recently tested nuclear weapons (see May 28, 1998), it is not on the list. Unfortunately for the integrity and believability of the report, its methodology is flawed in the same manner as the previous “Team B” reports (see November 1976); according to author J. Peter Scoblic, the report “assume[s] the worst about potential US enemies without actual evidence to support those assumptions.” Defense analyst John Pike is also displeased with the methodology of the report. Pike will later write: “Rather than basing policy on intelligence estimates of what will probably happen politically and economically and what the bad guys really want, it’s basing policy on that which is not physically impossible. This is really an extraordinary epistemological conceit, which is applied to no other realm of national policy, and if manifest in a single human being would be diagnosed as paranoia.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 10/13/2007; Scoblic 2008, pp. 172-173) Iran, Iraq, and North Korea will be dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech (see January 29, 2002).

After conducting a series of six nuclear tests (see May 30, 1998), Pakistan announces that it will adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see September 10, 1996) provided that India reciprocates (see May 11-13, 1998) and the US ends the economic sanctions it has employed against Pakistan since it tested its devices. (Federation of American Scientists 12/18/2007)

The US again begins to provide Pakistan with military and technological aid, which had been frozen in the wake of Pakistani tests of nuclear weapons in May (see May 28, 1998 and May 30, 1998). The US also froze agricultural aid after the tests, but began to provide it again in July (see July 1998). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 286)

Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998.Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998. [Source: US Department of Defense]Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton and other top Clinton administration officials. The number one issue for Clinton is Pakistan’s nuclear program, since Pakistan had recently illegally developed and exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998). The second most important issue is Pakistan’s economy; the US wants Pakistan to support free trade agreements. The third most important issue is terrorism and Pakistan’s support for bin Laden. Author Steve Coll will later note, “When Clinton himself met with Pakistani leaders, his agenda list always had several items, and bin Laden never was at the top. Afghanistan’s war fell even further down.” Sharif proposes to Clinton that the CIA train a secret Pakistani commando team to capture bin Laden. The US and Pakistan go ahead with this plan, even though most US officials involved in the decision believe it has almost no chance for success. They figure there is also little risk or cost involved, and it can help build ties between American and Pakistani intelligence. The plan will later come to nothing (see October 1999). (Coll 2004, pp. 441-444)

Aircraft operated by Shaheen Air International, an airline run by Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat, and Pakistani air force C-130 transporters make regular trips between North Korea and Pakistan. They carry technology the countries are exchanging for work on their missile and nuclear weapons programs. By January 1998, the US is observing at least nine flights per month between Islamabad and Pyongyang. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 278, 180) It is unclear how long these flights continue, although they presumably stop no later than when A. Q. Khan makes a public confession of his activities in 2004 (see February 4, 2004).

Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a Malaysia-based associate of A. Q. Khan, pays $2 million into the account of Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), a Dubai-based company run by another of Khan’s associates named Peter Griffin. According to Griffin, Tahir told him the money was to pay for a workshop to manufacture spare parts for the Libyan oil industry (see August 1997), although in reality it is to pay for components for Libya’s nuclear weapons program. The workshop is understandably not built and Tahir regularly calls Griffin to ask him to transfer money to different accounts. Griffin will comment: “He’d say, ‘I promised to send some money, can you send it for me to [Gotthard] Lerch, to Gunes [Cire, both associates of Khan], to Nauman Shah [Khan’s son-in-law]?’” Griffin apparently does not ask any questions about the payments, of which there are at least nine. He will recall: “I did point out to Tahir at one stage that this money was coming out of the Libyan National Oil Company cash. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay you back,’ and he did. The only problem, as I realized to my cost later, was I had no paperwork for these deals. Nothing to protect myself with.” Griffin is suspicious, but having known Tahir for years, not unduly so: “I was asked later if it had not appeared unusual to use money set aside for one thing to pay off another, without making any official receipts. But I said: ‘Tahir was a good friend. It was like a mate asking to borrow a fiver.’ But since there was nothing in writing I could not prove that Tahir had lied to me. I was disappointed. I’d known Tahir since he was a kid.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 366-367)

US spy satellites photograph missile components being loaded onto a Pakistani C-130 transport plane in Pyongyang, North Korea. Intelligence reports produced about the images conclude that the cargo is a direct exchange for nuclear technology coming from Khan Research Laboratories, the main Pakistani nuclear weapons facility. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 309) Pakistan and North Korea have been exchanging nuclear technology for missiles for some time (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After).

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (left) and A. Q. Khan (right).Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (left) and A. Q. Khan (right). [Source: CBC]Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denies that there is any nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea. He says, “There is no such thing as collaboration with North Korea in the nuclear arena.” He also calls allegations made by the New York Times that Pakistan had helped North Korea with its nuclear program and this was known to American intelligence “absolutely baseless.” (Sanger 10/20/2002; Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 339, 525) However, Pakistan, in particular nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and the military, has been assisting North Korea’s uranium enrichment program for the best part of a decade (see, for example, August 1992, May 1993, Shortly Before December 29, 1993, December 29, 1993 and Shortly After, January 1994, Mid-1990s, November 19-24, 1995, 1996, Summer 1996, 1997, 1997, and November 2002).

The CIA informs Congress that North Korea’s uranium enrichment program is progressing: “The North is constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year when fully operational.” Although it is clear that North Korea has acquired some centrifuges needed for such a facility (see Mid-June 1998), it is unclear whether it is actually under construction at this time and where the site might be. North Korea has the other parts of the process necessary to build a uranium bomb: half a dozen mines for yellowcake, a uranium processing facility with the capacity to process 300 kg of ore a day in Kusong, 30 miles west of the Korean nuclear power plant at Yongbyon-kun, and a uranium concentration facility in Namch’on, 30 miles north of the demilitarized zone. A uranium enrichment site with a cascade of at least 1,000 centrifuges would be the last element in the process. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 281, 517-518)

President Bush waives the last set of US sanctions against Pakistan. The US imposed a new series of sanctions against Pakistan in 1998, after Pakistan exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998), and in 1999, when President Pervez Musharraf overthrew a democratically elected government (see October 12, 1999). The lifted sanctions had prohibited the export of US military equipment and military assistance to a country whose head of government has been deposed. Some other sanctions were waived shortly after 9/11. Bush’s move comes as Musharraf is trying to decide whether or not to support a US-sponsored United Nations resolution which could start war with Iraq. It also comes two weeks after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). (Collinson 3/14/2003)

A. Q. Khan confesses on television.A. Q. Khan confesses on television. [Source: CBC]After A. Q. Khan’s nuclear proliferation network was caught selling nuclear technology to Libya, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is put in a difficult spot over how to deal with Khan. Khan is so popular in Pakistan that Musharraf would face considerable political fallout if Khan is declared a traitor or seriously punished. Khan is placed under house arrest in Pakistan. Then, on February 4, 2004, he apologizes in a carefully staged speech broadcast on Pakistani television. He says that he accepts full responsibility for all nuclear proliferation activities. He insists that neither the Pakistani government nor the Pakistani military was aware or involved in his nuclear network in any way. He asks for forgiveness. “It pains me to realize this, that my entire lifetime of providing foolproof national security to my nation could have been placed in serious jeopardy on account of my activities, which were based in good faith, but on errors of judgment related to unauthorized proliferation activities.” Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “Most experts accepted that Khan could not have carried out his business without the military’s support.” But US government officials immediately accept Khan’s apology and say that they believe Pakistan’s military had not supported his business. (Rashid 2008, pp. 289)

Gulf Technical Industries, a Dubai-based company used by the A. Q. Khan proliferation network to facilitate Libya’s nuclear weapons program (see August 1997 and July 2000), collapses. The reason is that the firm, owned by long-term Khan associate Peter Griffin, suffers adverse publicity following Khan’s public confession to his nuclear proliferation activities (see February 4, 2004). This leads its local sponsor to pull out and its bank to close its accounts, meaning the company has to close. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 529)

In the wake of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan’s public apology for his role in nuclear proliferation on February 4, 2004 (see February 4, 2004), and the US government’s quick acceptance of that apology, it is clear the US expects more cooperation from Pakistan on counterterrorism in return. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says in an interview on February 19: “In a funny way, the A. Q. Khan [apology]… we feel it gives us more leverage, and it may give [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf a stronger hand, that Pakistan has an act to clean up. The international community is prepared to accept Musharraf’s pardoning of Khan for all that he has done, but clearly it is a kind of IOU, and in return for that there has to be a really thorough accounting. Beyond that understanding, we expect an even higher level of cooperation on the al-Qaeda front than we have had to date.” But there is no increased cooperation in the next months. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment: “Musharraf had become a master at playing off Americans’ fears while protecting the army and Pakistan’s national interest.… [He] refused to budge and continued to provide only minimal satisfaction to the United States and the world. He declined to give the CIA access to Khan, and there was no stepped-up hunt for bin Laden.” (Rashid 2008, pp. 289-290)


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