Iran paid North Korea tens of millions of dollars to witness the most recent nuclear test, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported this weekend.
According to Kyodo’s source, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approved the payment in November after a meeting of his national security team. The pay-to-view request was reported to have come from the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi-Dabani, an individual who was also present at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in science, technology and education between North Korea and Iran last September.
Despite the allegation, Kyodo said it is unclear whether the Iranian scientists actually witnessed the test. However, the unnamed diplomatic source was quoted as saying the proposal casts further doubt on Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is peaceful. He added it would be “very worrying” if Iran got nuclear test knowhow from North Korea.
Separate reports in The Sunday Times said the test was allegedly witnessed by the “father of Iran’s nuclear program” Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi. That the Iranian payment was supposedly made through the Bank of Kunlun in Beijing may bolster American calls for increased sanctions related to North Korea’s financial transactions, along the lines of measures taken against Banco Delta Asia in 2005.
Reports in recent days also indicated that the DPRK tested a long-range missile engine just a day before the third nuclear test last week. South Korean government sources told Yonhap News that Pyongyang “carried out a function test of the engine for its long-range ‘KN-08’ missiles on the Dongchang-ri launch site in North Pyongan Province”. The unnamed source said that “if the North decides the test successful, it is expected to operationally deploy the new long-range rocket.”
At the same time, a report based on satellite imagery published in 38 North speculated last week that North Korea could be preparing to test a KN-08 long range rocket in the near future. Together with the recent Unha rocket launch and third nuclear test, the moves suggest North Korea is increasing efforts to field an array of potentially nuclear tipped intermediate and long range missiles.
North Korea’s nuclear test drew widespread condemnation from the international community, though Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that world nuclear powers need to scrap their stockpiles to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in countries such as North Korea.