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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Pakistan 'helped N Korea go nuclear'
North Korean Taepodong-2 missile
N Korea had agreed not to develop nuclear weapons

American intelligence officials say that Pakistan was a major supplier of critical equipment for North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, according to US newspaper reports.

It comes after Washington revealed that North Korea had apparently admitted pursuing a nuclear weapons programme despite signing an agreement in 1994 to abandon its research effort.

Now the problem appears to have been compounded with the revelation in the New York Times that Pakistan - a key ally of the United States in the war against terrorism - has been an important contributor to the North Korean programme.

Arms control experts have long suspected some sort of linkage between the weapons programmes of Pakistan and North Korea.

Pakistan clearly has the bomb, and some US officials believe that North Korea may now have nuclear weapons as well.

Nuclear ties

Both countries have sought to develop long-range ballistic missiles to carry their warheads.

North Korean nuclear facility
The US revealed evidence of North Korea's nuclear programme

Both have also had close ties with China - seen by many experts as a key exporter of nuclear and missile know-how.

Suspicions are one thing but now the Americans seem to have concluded that they have hard evidence showing Pakistan's support for North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

It all seems to be tied up with the information that prompted Washington to confront North Korean diplomats earlier this month.

That encounter appears to have resulted in an uncharacteristic admission from Pyongyang that it does indeed have a nuclear weapons programme.

The Americans said that North Korea was trying to obtain large quantities of high-strength aluminium for centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium to provide bomb-making material.

Key components

The Americans suspect that Pakistan has given North Korea critical help here - perhaps even the gas centrifuges themselves.

Pervez Musharraf
Nuclear co-operation reportedly pre-dates Musharraf

This help is said to have started in the late 1990s, some two years before General Pervez Musharraf took power.

But it appears to have continued, perhaps even beyond 11 September last year.

Pakistan embassy officials in Washington have denied the allegations.

But the new US intelligence assessment suggests that one of America's principle allies in the war against terrorism has been an important contributor to the nuclear weapons programme of a member of what President Bush calls the "axis of evil".

It is a reminder yet again that real life is far more complex than the simple slogans used to market the Bush administration's policies abroad.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Americas
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