Weapons of Mass Destruction: Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan
CRS Report for Congress
Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan
Updated November 28, 2006
Sharon A. Squassoni
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan
In October 2002, the United States confronted North Korea about its alleged
clandestine uranium enrichment program. Soon after, the Agreed Framework
collapsed, North Korea expelled international inspectors, and withdrew from the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). U.S. intelligence officials claimed Pakistan
was a key supplier of uranium enrichment technology to North Korea, and some
media reports suggested that Pakistan had exchanged centrifuge enrichment
technology for North Korean help in developing longer range missiles.
U.S. official statements leave little doubt that cooperation occurred, but there
are significant details missing on the scope of cooperation and the role of Pakistan’s
government. North Korea and Pakistan both initially denied that nuclear technology
was provided to North Korea; President Musharraf admitted, however, in 2006 that
such technology had been transferred. This report describes the nature and evidence
of the cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan in missiles and nuclear
weapons, the impact of cooperation on their weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
programs and on the international nonproliferation regime. It will be updated as
The roots of cooperation are deep. North Korea and Pakistan have been
engaged in conventional arms trade for over 30 years. In the 1980s, as North Korea
began successfully exporting ballistic missiles and technology, Pakistan began
producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) at the Khan Research Laboratory. Benazir
Bhutto’s 1993 visit to Pyongyang seems to have kicked off serious missile
cooperation, but it is harder to pinpoint the genesis of Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation
with North Korea. By the time Pakistan probably needed to pay North Korea for its
purchases of medium-range No Dong missiles in the mid-1990s (upon which its
Ghauri missiles are based), Pakistan’s cash reserves were low. Pakistan could offer
North Korea a route to nuclear weapons using HEU that could circumvent the
plutonium-focused 1994 Agreed Framework and be difficult to detect.
WMD trade between North Korea and Pakistan raises significant issues for
congressional oversight. Are there sources of leverage over proliferators outside the
nonproliferation regime? Do sanctions, interdiction, and intelligence as
nonproliferation tools need to be strengthened? How is the threat of proliferation
interpreted within the nexus of terrorism and WMD? Further, has counterterrorism
cooperation taken precedence over nonproliferation cooperation? If so, are there
approaches that would make both policies mutually supportive?
See also CRS Report RL33590, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program, by
Larry A. Niksch, and CRS Report RS21391, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Latest
Developments?, by Sharon Squassoni.
In troduction ......................................................1
Rogue State Symbiosis?.........................................3
North Korean Enrichment...........................................4
Pakistan’s Missile Development......................................9
North Korean Assistance.......................................10
Pakistan’s Nuclear Sales...........................................11
Issues for Congress...............................................15
Weapons of Mass Destruction: Trade
Between North Korea and Pakistan
More than 30 years ago, states agreed to control trade related to weapons of
mass destruction (WMD) to complement the agreements comprising the
nonproliferation regime. Supplier controls are not foolproof, but many observers
believe that national and multilateral export controls can slow, deter, and make
WMD acquisition more difficult or costly for the determined proliferator until
political change makes the weapons irrelevant or no longer desirable.1
A recurrent problem in controlling technology transfers is that key states do not
participate in the regimes. Although they are still targets of supply-side restrictions,
some proliferating states now are able to reproduce WMD technologies and systems
and sell them abroad without formal restraints on trade. North Korea, Pakistan, and
India are three such examples in the case of nuclear weapons and missile technology.2
When export controls and interdiction fail, some U.S. laws impose penalties on
countries, entities, or persons for proliferation activities. The provisions are varied
and extend across the range of foreign assistance (aid, financing, government3
contracts, military sales). Penalties for engaging in enrichment or reprocessing trade
were strengthened by the 1976 and 1977 Symington and Glenn amendments to the
Foreign Assistance Act (now Sections 101 and 102 of the Arms Export Control Act).
Later penalties were added for nuclear detonations, and other provisions established
penalties for individuals. Missile proliferation-related sanctions were established in
the Missile Technology Control Act 1990, which added Chapter VII to the Arms
Export Control Act and similar language at Section 11B of the Export Administration
Act of 1979. In addition to legislated penalties, the U.S. government also imposes
sanctions through executive orders.
1 Several countries have made political decisions to stop WMD programs, sometimes
coinciding with regime changes, e.g., Argentina and Brazil halted their nuclear weapons
programs and South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons in the 1990s. The U.S. stopped
its biological weapons program in advance of the Biological Weapons Convention and
Libya renounced all its WMD programs in December 2003.
2 China has only belatedly joined supplier restraint groups. A member of the Zangger
Committee, China joined the NPT in 1992 and has agreed to adhere to MTCR guidelines.
China also joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004.
3 See CRS Report RL31502, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Missile Proliferation
Sanctions: Selected Current Law, by Dianne E. Rennack.
In October 2002, the Bush Administration announced that North Korea had been
pursuing a clandestine uranium enrichment program; U.S. intelligence officials
leaked to the press a few days later that Pakistan, among other countries, was
implicated.4 The outlines of a missiles-for-nuclear technology trade were reported
in the press.5 Pakistani government officials denied such trade. The State
Department offered assurances that cooperation between the two was a thing of the
past. In March 2003, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions on North Korean
and Pakistani entities for cooperation in missiles.6 In a letter to Congress, the State
Department explained that “the facts relating to the possible transfer of nuclear
technology from Pakistan to North Korea...do not warrant the imposition of sanctions
under applicable U.S. laws.”
In late 2003, a convoluted turn of events involving nuclear safeguards
inspections in Iran and a decision by Libya in December to renounce its WMD
programs provided evidence that Pakistani scientists had supplied nuclear technology
to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Pakistani officials denied any government
knowledge of such cooperation and at first, denied that A.Q. Khan (former head of
Khan Research Laboratories) and his associates had assisted Libya or North Korea.
Khan confessed to his proliferation misdeeds in early February 2004 and was
pardoned by President Musharraf immediately. Interviewed on February 17, 2004,
Musharraf noted that Pakistan’s investigation had not uncovered evidence of
transfers to other countries other than Iran and Libya.”7 It was not until President
Musharraf published his memoirs in September 2006 that he admitted nuclear
technology had been sold to North Korea.
Nonetheless, President Bush, in a speech that focused on proliferation at the
National Defense University on February 11, 2004, stated that Khan and others sold
“nuclear technologies and equipment to outlaw regimes stretching from North Africa
to the Korean Peninsula.” Bush further stated that “Khan and his associates provided
Iran and Libya and North Korea with designs for Pakistan’s older centrifuges, as well
as designs for more advanced and efficient models.”8
Both North Korea and Pakistan have been subject to sanctions in the past for
WMD trade. North Korea has been under one form or another of sanctions for close
4 “A Nuclear North Korea: Intelligence; U.S. Says Pakistan Gave Technology to North
Korea,” New York Times, October 18, 2002.
5 See “Pakistan’s Benazir Oversaw Korea Nuclear Deal - sources,” Reuters News, November
6 Federal Register, Vol. 68, No. 63, April 2, 2003, pp. 16113-16114. The U.S. imposed
sanctions on Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in 1993 for receipt of M-11 missiles from
China; in 1998 for missile-related cooperation with Changgwang Sinyong Corporation and
again in 2003.
7 “Pakistan Rejects Nuclear Inspection,” London Financial Times, February 18, 2004.
8 “President Announces New Measures to Counter the Threat of WMD,” Remarks by the
President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation, Fort Lesley J. McNair, National
Defense University, Washington, D.C.
[ ht t p: / / www.whi t e house.gov/ news/ r el eases/ 2004/ 02/ 20040211-4.ht ml ]
to fifty years; Pakistan has been sanctioned in what some observers deem an “on
again, off again” fashion, mostly for importing WMD technology, and also for testing
a nuclear device.9 The sanctions on the North Korean entity, Changgwang Sinyong
Corporation, were imposed pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act and the Export
Administration Act on the basis of knowing involvement in the transfer of Category
I (under the Missile Technology Control Regime) missiles or components. The
sanctions on the Pakistani entity, Khan Research Laboratories, were imposed
pursuant to Executive Order 12938 from March 2003 to March 2005. Both of these
entities have been sanctioned repeatedly in the past for missile trade. On the nuclear
side, all sanctions were waived following September 11, 2001, and it is unlikely that
such sanctions will be imposed again, absent significant evidence of the Pakistani
government’s involvement in nuclear trade.
Rogue State Symbiosis?
At first glance, North Korea and Pakistan do not seem the likeliest of
proliferation bedfellows. However, they have traded in conventional armaments for
over thirty years and forged a firm relationship during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988),
during which both provided assistance to Iran. North Korea’s sale of Scuds and
production capabilities proved particularly important to Iran.10
Neither state lies completely outside the nonproliferation regimes. Despite its
extreme isolation, North Korea signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in
1985 under pressure from the Soviet Union, and is a party to the Biological Weapons
Convention (BWC). However, North Korea never lived up to its NPT obligations
and formally withdrew from the treaty, effective April 10, 2003.11 Most observers
believe North Korea has one or two nuclear weapons (or at least the plutonium for
them) and may now be able to add six or eight weapons to its arsenal, given
successful reprocessing of the spent fuel at Yongbyon. (North Korea told an
unofficial U.S. delegation in January 2004 that it had completed reprocessing the fuel
at the end of June 2003. The unofficial delegation, including former head of the Los
Alamos National Laboratory Sig Hecker, was shown an empty spent fuel pond, but
little else to prove North Korean claims).12 On October 9, 2006, North Korea tested
a nuclear device, which many experts believe did not achieve its desired yield, if it
achieved a nuclear yield at all.
Most observers believe North Korea probably has biological weapons. North
Korea does not participate in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), nor
9 See CRS Report RS20995, India and Pakistan: U.S. Economic Sanctions, by Dianne E.
Rennack, for a discussion of sanctions on Pakistan.
10 Unpublished paper by Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “DPRK-Pakistan Ghauri Missile
11 See CRS Report RL33590, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program, by Larry Niksch.
North Korea also tried to withdraw from the NPT in 1994,but suspended its withdrawal.
12 See CRS Report RS21391, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Latest Developments.
is it a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).13 After successfully
reverse-engineering Soviet-origin Scud missiles, North Korea became a leading
exporter of ballistic missiles beginning in the 1980s. According to the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), North Korea attaches high priority to exporting ballistic
missiles, which is a major source of hard currency.14
Pakistan, on the other hand, has never been as isolated as North Korea. It has
relied significantly on outside sources of technology for its weapons programs but
has not been thought of as a major exporter of WMD-related items. It remains to be
seen whether the Pakistani military and/or government was involved at all with
Khan’s nuclear deals. Pakistan has long rejected the NPT and tested nuclear
weapons in 1998, but is a party to the BWC and the CWC. Nonetheless, the U.S.
Department of Defense believes Pakistan has “the resources and capabilities to
support a limited BW research and development effort,” and likely has a chemical
weapons capability.15 Pakistan has sought technical assistance in its ballistic missile
programs from North Korea and China for over a decade.
To some, proliferation by states that have newly acquired WMD is inevitable,
resulting from diffusion of technology, insufficient political will to enforce controls,
or demand fueled by perceived threats or the continuing prestige of WMD. In the
past, however, technology transfers between countries outside of the control regimes
seemed limited by the lack of technical skill and technology or hard currency. By the
mid-1990s, however, North Korea had a proven track record in ballistic missiles, and
Pakistan had demonstrated its uranium enrichment capabilities. Although Pakistan
apparently was hampered by a lack of hard currency, it could provide North Korea
with a route to nuclear weapons using highly enriched uranium (HEU). This route
would not only circumvent North Korea’s Agreed Framework with the United States,
but would also be difficult to detect using satellite imagery.
North Korean Enrichment
At the time the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea was negotiated, there
was concern about, but scant evidence of, North Korean interest in uranium
enrichment. Reports relating to North Korea’s procurement of enrichment-related
equipment date as far back as the mid-1980s, a time when North Korea was
progressing rapidly in its plutonium production program. For example, in 1987,
North Korea reportedly received a small annealing furnace from the West German
company Leybold AG. Although they have many other uses, annealing furnaces can
be used in production of centrifuge rotors for uranium enrichment. A five-year-long
German intelligence investigation conducted from 1985 to 1990 concluded that Iraq,
and possibly Iran and North Korea obtained uranium melting information from
13 See The International Institute for Strategic Studies, North Korea’s Weapons
Programmes: A Net Assessment (London, January 2004) for excellent descriptions of all
North Korea’s WMD programs.
14 See [http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/721_reports/jan_jun2003.htm].
15 Department of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, January 2001.
Pakistan in the late 1980s.16 U.S. intelligence sources also believed that technicians
employed by Leybold AG were involved in transferring equipment and information
to North Korea. One or two such technicians were in North Korea in 1989 and
another Leybold employee reportedly was seen there in 1990. Subsidiaries of
Leybold AG were also involved in exporting centrifuge-related welding equipment
to Iraq in the late 1980s.17
Negotiators of the Agreed Framework were aware that North Korea’s NPT
obligations did not prohibit uranium enrichment, and that the Agreed Framework did
not directly address uranium enrichment.18 North Korea was bound not to possess
plutonium reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities by virtue of the 1992 Joint
Declaration of a Denuclearized Korean Peninsula — a bilateral agreement with South
Korea that called for subsequent meetings. The U.S.-North Korean Agreed
Framework required North Korea to make progress in implementing the joint
declaration, but the process languished. Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. government
continued to look for signs of enrichment and in 1998, the United States sent a team
to Kumchang-ni to look for undeclared nuclear activities, including uranium
enrichment. The team concluded that the site was not nuclear-related. By 1999,
according to one former official, however, there were clear signs of active North
Korean interest in uranium enrichment.
North Korea has continued to deny it has an enrichment program. Vice Minister
Kim Gye Gwan told an unofficial U.S. delegation to Pyongyang in January 2004 that,
“We do not have a highly enriched uranium program, and furthermore we never
16 “Agencies Trace Some Iraqi URENCO Know-How to Pakistan Re-Export,” Nucleonics
Week, November 28, 1991, pp. 1, 7-8.
17 “Iraq’s Bomb, Chip by Chip,” New York Times, April 24, 1992.
18 Ambassador Robert Gallucci, who negotiated the Agreed Framework, told a roundtable
convened at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2003 that: “I would have
to say that, yes, the Agreed Framework is less than perfect and there are vulnerabilities...The
most glaring problem was that we were trying to stop the nuclear weapons program and we
focused on the existing weapons program in North Korea based upon plutonium... But we
did not achieve any additional transparency. We had no new inspection regime and all of
us were keenly aware that one could build nuclear weapons not only with the existing
facilities, but also with new, secret ones. I was asked in testimony in 1995, and many times
privately by Senators and Congressmen, whether North Korea could cheat. I said, yes, they
could and if they did it would probably be in the area of enrichment and the technology
would be centrifuge. This was common sense. Many of us had been around the track with
other countries that had done exactly this... Although we could predict it, why did we not
do something about it? Because we did not think it was negotiable. That’s a judgment of the
negotiating team and the government at the time. It was not my personal judgment only. We
made the best deal we could, and we reported that the way to deal with this vulnerability
was to monitor North Korea just as carefully as we would if we did not have a deal, through
our intelligence capabilities and the intelligence capabilities of our allies. We would try to
catch them if they cheated, and the program we knew about we could monitor.”
admitted to one.”19 In addition, North Korea has not admitted that it has an
enrichment program in the course of the six-party talks.
On February 24, 2004, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence that “We ...believe Pyongyang is pursuing a production-
scale uranium enrichment program based on technology provided by AQ Khan,
which would give North Korea an alternative route to nuclear weapons.” This
estimate indicates either that North Korea has made progress since the CIA
distributed a one-page, unclassified white paper to Congress on North Korean
enrichment capabilities in November 2002, or that the CIA has new information on
North Korean capabilities. The November 2002 paper noted that the United States
had “been suspicious that North Korea has been working on uranium enrichment for
several years,” and that it obtained clear evidence “recently” that North Korea had
begun constructing a centrifuge facility.20 The CIA concluded that North Korea
began a centrifuge-based uranium enrichment program in 2000. Further, the paper
noted that, in 2001, North Korea “began seeking centrifuge-related materials in large
quantities. It also obtained equipment suitable for use in uranium feed and
withdrawal systems.” The CIA “learned that the North is constructing a plant that
could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per
year when fully operational — which could be as soon as mid-decade.” In the
Deputy Director of National Intelligence’s report, “Unclassified Report to Congress
on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and
Advanced Conventional Munitions,” 1 January-31 December 2004 (pursuant to
Section 721 of the of the FY1997 Intelligence Authorization Act), there is no
mention of any North Korean uranium enrichment activity or capability. Few
observers believe that North Korea now has an operating uranium enrichment plant.
Media reports suggested that the CIA had evidence of construction and of
procurement. “Clear evidence” of construction of a centrifuge facility could mean
photographs of construction sites, but the phrasing that the CIA “learned that the
North has begun constructing a plant” is ambiguous enough to suggest the possibility
that such information comes from a defector. According to former U.S. ambassador
Donald Gregg, who became ambassador to South Korea in 1989 after retiring from
the CIA, North Korea is “an extraordinarily difficult target to go after.”21 The
unclassified one-page paper distinguishes between North Korea seeking materials
and actually obtaining equipment.
According to U.S. intelligence officials, the CIA does not know where North
Korea is enriching uranium.22 According to a State Department official, the
Administration has narrowed possible uranium enrichment sites down to three.
Outside observers have suggested that Yongjo-ri, Hagap, Taechon, Pyongyang, and
19 Testimony of Dr. Sigfried Hecker before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
“Update on the North Korean Nuclear Issue,” January 21, 2004.
20 Untitled working paper on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment
distributed by CIA to Congressional staff on November 19, 2002.
21 “N. Korea Keeps U.S. Intelligence Guessing,” USA Today, March 11, 2003.
Ch’onma-san might all be potential sites for enrichment. One defector, who was
debriefed by Chinese officials in 1999 (he later returned to North Korea, where, it is
assumed, he was killed), claimed that North Korea was operating a secret uranium
processing site under Mt. Chun-Ma. Commercial satellite photos of Hagap show
tunnel entrances but little else.
Detecting clandestine uranium enrichment is generally considered to be more
difficult than detecting clandestine plutonium production for several reasons. First,
satellite imagery is most useful when changes can be detected at known facilities, or
in detecting new facilities. Reactors and reprocessing facilities used in plutonium
production often have telltale signatures (shape, size, features like no windows in a
reprocessing plant, connection to a water source, power plants or connection to an
electricity grid, environmental releases), which facilitate remote detection. Uranium
enrichment plants often do not, although this varies among the techniques used. For
example, gaseous diffusion enrichment plants often are very large and require
tremendous amounts of electricity, offering some distinguishable features. In
contrast, centrifuge plants can be small, emit few environmental signatures, and do
not require significant amounts of energy to operate.
There is currently no detailed, unclassified information on the assistance
Pakistan might have offered. One media report, citing Western officials, said the aid
included a complete design package for a centrifuge rotor assembly, while a Japanese
report stated that Pakistan had exported actual centrifuge rotors (2,000-3,000) to
North Korea.23 The Washington Post reported that North Korean efforts to procure
high strength aluminum and significant construction activity tipped off the United
States.24 Apparently, North Korea attempted to obtain materials from China, Japan,
Pakistan, Russia, and Europe, but Pakistan provided most of the assistance related
to the rotors. A Pakistani official involved in Khan’s investigation reportedly said
North Korea ordered P-1 centrifuge components from 1997 to 2000.25 The scope of
Pakistan’s cooperation with Libya and Iran (including P-1 and P-2 designs, a nuclear
weapon design for Libya, and some complete rotor assemblies) raises significant
questions about how much other help Khan might have given to the North Koreans.
In his September 2006 memoir, Pakistani President Musharraf stated that he believes
that Khan sent some of “Pakistan’s most technologically advanced nuclear
cent ri fuges. 26
23 “CIA Assessment on DPRK Presumes Massive Outside Help on Centrifuges,” Nuclear
Fuel, Nov. 25, 2002.
24 “U.S. Followed the Aluminum; Pyongyang’s Effort to Buy Metal was Tip to Plans,”
Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2002.
25 “Scientist Claimed Nuclear Equipment Was Old, Official Says,” Los Angeles Times, Feb.
26 “In Book, Musharraf Expands on North Korean Nuclear Link,” Washington Post, Sept.
If North Korea may already have plutonium-based nuclear weapons, what is the
technical significance of acquiring a uranium enrichment capability? On the one
hand, acquiring fissile material is, to many observers, the most difficult part of
nuclear weapons acquisition. On the other hand, North Korea’s plutonium production
program is no longer bound by the Agreed Framework. North Korea began operating
its 5MW reactor and has claimed to have completed reprocessing the spent fuel in
storage (although the U.S. has not confirmed this). North Korea therefore now may
be able to augment its current stockpile of 1-2 weapons’ worth of plutonium with
additional plutonium for about 5 to 6 weapons.
Currently, most accounts suggest that North Korea does not have a completed
enrichment plant. In order to produce enough HEU for 1 to 2 weapons (about 50kg),
North Korea would require cascades of thousands of centrifuges. If North Korea has
the capability to produce its own centrifuge rotors, or has completed assemblies
already, producing HEU might be considered easier that its other fissile material
production options. The unofficial U.S. delegation that visited North Korea in
January reported that the larger reactor under construction at Yongbyon was clearly
in disrepair. The unclassified CIA 2002 paper estimated that North Korea could
produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year
when the enrichment plant is fully operational.27 It is not clear how this estimate was
arrived at, and whether evidence that Pakistan provided P-1 or even P-2 centrifuge
technology was available at that time.28
Revelations that Libya received a nuclear weapons design from a foreign source
raise concerns about whether North Korea also received such a nuclear weapons
design.29 According to media reports, the packet of information that Libya received
on the nuclear weapon included Chinese text and step-by-step instructions for
assembling a vintage-1960s HEU implosion device.30 The Chinese markings are
significant because of long-standing rumors that China provided Pakistan with a
nuclear weapons design. For North Korea, receiving a proven design for an HEU
27 Untitled working paper on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment
distributed by CIA to Congressional staff on November 19, 2002.
28 The P-1 centrifuge design uses aluminum and is modified from a 1970s URENCO design,
which AQ Khan reportedly stole. The Pakistani program apparently now uses a P-2
centrifuge design, which is a more advanced design, with greater efficiency, using maraging
29 The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report, GOV/2004/12,
“Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab
Jamahiriya,” February 20, 2004 states Libya received “documentation related to a nuclear
weapon design and fabrication from a foreign source” p. 6.
30 “Warhead Blueprints Link Libya Project to Pakistan Figure,” New York Times, February
2004. The implicit assumption is that Pakistan provided a nuclear weapon design it received
from China in the 1980s to Libya.
implosion device would be a significant advantage for its nuclear weapons program.31
Quite possibly, the main benefit of a centrifuge enrichment program — the
ability to produce fissile material clandestinely — may no longer be of great
importance to North Korea since it left the NPT in 2003. Nonetheless, such a
program may make the North Korean arsenal less vulnerable to possible military
strikes because centrifuge enrichment facilities are hard to detect. In addition, the
production of highly enriched uranium, together with plutonium production, could
give the North Koreans the option of producing more sophisticated nuclear weapons,
for example, using composite pits or boosted fission techniques (although there are
no indications that they have the technical skill to do so).
Pakistan’s Missile Development
Pakistan, according to many observers, has two clearly distinct missile
development programs. The first program is run by the Pakistan National
Development Complex (PNDC) in collaboration with the Pakistan Space and Upper
Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy
Commission (PAEC) and has focused since the early 1980s on solid-fueled ballistic
missiles. Pakistan currently fields about 80 of the first variant, the Hatf 1. The Hatf
1 is a short-range, solid propellant, unguided missile considered by some to be too
small for a nuclear warhead, which was flight-tested in 1989 and fielded in 1992.
The 80km-range was extended to 300km in the Hatf 2a, and to 800km in the Hatf 3.
Despite claims of indigenous development, there are many indications that the Hatf
1, 2, and 3 benefitted from Chinese and European assistance. Some believe that
Pakistan renamed some imported Chinese M-11 missiles as Hatf 2a missiles in the
early 1990s; many believe that the Hatf 3 are variants of Chinese M-9 missiles, and
there are those who believe that the Hatf 4 (Shaheen 1) may be based on Chinese M-
11s. Pakistan tested its Hatf 6 missile (Shaheen 2), which reportedly has a 2000-km
range, in early March 2004 for the first time.
The second development program has been headed by Khan Research
Laboratories. One report has suggested that these competing ballistic missile
development efforts were aligned with competing nuclear warhead efforts — that is,
the team developing a plutonium warhead for Pakistan’s bomb, the PAEC, worked
towards developing Chinese-derived nuclear-capable missiles, while the HEU team
(KRL), collaborated with North Korea on liquid-fueled missiles derived from
Scuds.32 In any event, it is clear that KRL cooperated with North Korea in
31 There are some reports that North Korean scientists were present at Pakistan’s 1998
nuclear tests and some speculation that Pakistan tested a North Korean plutonium device
during those tests, but there is little public evidence to support this latter claim. See
“Pakistan May Have Aided North Korea A-Test,” New York Times, February 27, 2004.
32 Simon Henderson, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Proliferation and U.S. Policy,” Policy Watch, The
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 12, 2004.
developing the Ghauri (Hatf 5), reportedly beginning around 1993.33 The Ghauri 1
is a liquid-propellant, nuclear-capable, 1500km-range ballistic missile, which was
successfully flight-tested first in April 1998. Pakistan now fields approximately 5 to
North Korean Assistance
Pakistani ballistic missile engineers developed working relationships with North
Korean engineers in the mid-1980s when they both assisted Iran during the Iran-Iraq
war. In fact, the close resemblance of Iran’s Shahab missile and the Ghauri 1 has led
many to conclude that the development of the missiles was coordinated between
Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea around 1993.34 In 1992, Pakistani officials visited
North Korea to view a No Dong prototype, and again in 1993 for a No Dong flight
test.35 There are reports that then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited Pyongyang
for one day in December 1993 and many analysts believe missile sales were on the
agenda of her visit, despite her public denial.36 According to one report, North Korea
sent 5 to 12 No Dong missile assembly sets to Pakistan between 1994 and 1997;
North Korea denies the allegation.37 At the end of 1997, intelligence agencies
observed regular flights from North Korea to Pakistan, accelerating in the beginning
of 1998 when there were about 9 flights per month. These flights reportedly
followed the visit of high-level North Korean officials to Pakistan.38 A.Q. Khan
apparently made 13 visits to North Korea, beginning in the 1990s.39 Many observers
believe Pakistan accepted between 12 and 25 complete No Dong missiles in the late
Some observers believe that cooperation has gone both ways — that Pakistan
assisted North Korea in developing solid propellant technology. The Taepo Dong 1,
which was flight-tested in August 1998, reportedly had a third, solid-propellant stage.
Both Iranian and Pakistani personnel apparently were present for the flight test in
33 Duncan Lennox, Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue Thirty-Six, January 2002, p.
34 Ibid., p. 126
35 See Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “A History of Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK,”
Center for Nonproliferation Studies Occasional Paper No. 2, Monterey Institute of
International Studies, 1999, pp. 23-24.
36 Daniel A. Pinkston, “When Did WMD Deals between Pyongyang and Islamabad Begin?”
37 Duncan Lennox, editor, Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue 36, January 2002, p. 125.
38 “Pakistan’s Missile ‘Was a Nodong’,” Jane’s Missile and Rockets, Volume 2, Number 5,
May 1998, pp. 1-2.
39 Seymour Hersh, “The Cold Test: What the Administration Knew About Pakistan and the
North Korean Nuclear Program,” New Yorker, January 27, 2003. “So Far U.S. Skirting
Sanctions Issue on Pakistan’s Centrifuge Aid to DPRK,” Nuclear Fuel, December 9, 2002,
quotes a Western source that A.Q. Khan was in the DPRK when the two countries’
representatives closed a deal to cooperate on ballistic missiles and uranium enrichment.
“The Evil Behind the Axis?” Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2003, quotes U.S. officials that
Khan initiated talks with the North Koreans in 1992 for No Dong missiles.
North Korean missiles have overwhelmingly used liquid propellants. If Pakistan
provided such cooperation, it likely would have come from PAEC and not KRL.
In missile development, some important milestones include extending range and
payload, improving accuracy, and enhancing deployability (for example, through
stable propellants and mobile launchers). The medium-range Ghauri 1 missiles
significantly increase Pakistan’s ability to target India and improve Pakistan’s ability
to deploy nuclear warheads by increasing the payload. With a payload of 1200kg
and a range of 1500km, the Ghauri well exceeds the MTCR standard for a Category
I, or nuclear-weapons capable, missile (500kg/300km). By contrast, the Hatf 1
missiles have a range and payload of 80km and 500kg. A.Q. Khan has stated that the
Ghauri is Pakistan’s only nuclear capable missile. The Ghauri 2, still in
development, will have a range of between 1800 and 3000km. Both could reach
major Indian cities with large payloads.
The Ghauri missiles, because they use liquid propellant, are not as easily
deployed as the Shaheen 1 and 2 missiles (Hatf 4 and 6). These solid-fueled,
medium-range missiles apparently are based on Chinese M-11s. The Shaheens are
easier to prepare, require fewer support vehicles and personnel, and are far more
accurate than the Ghauris.40 There have been unconfirmed reports that the Ghauri
missiles will be shelved in favor of the Shaheens. On the other hand, the Shaheen
North Korea adhered to a moratorium on flight-testing ballistic missiles from
September 1999 to July 2006. On July 5, 2006, North Korea flight-tested seven
missiles, including a Taepo-Dong-2 that failed 42 seconds after launch. How North
Korea’s renewed testing will affect North Korean-Pakistani missile cooperation is
unclear because the objectives of North Korean testing and future directions of the
Pakistani program are not known. However, Pakistan probably would be interested
in increasing the payload and improving the accuracy and mobility of its missiles,
which could indicate more interest in Chinese than North Korean assistance.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Sales
The genesis of Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation with North Korea is murky.
There are a few reports in trade journals of equipment passing through Pakistan on
the way to North Korea, but it is difficult to pinpoint when cooperation began. In
1986, Swiss officials seized equipment (autoclaves and desublimers) en route to
Pakistan that is typically used in uranium enrichment. Special steel containers were
also seized. One source reports that uranium enrichment information may have been
40 Duncan Lennox, editor, Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue 36, January 2002, p. 126.
diverted from the German partner in URENCO, Uranit GmbH, to Pakistan via
Switzerland and then reexported to North Korea.41
Whether provided solely at the behest of Khan, or with the government’s
blessing, it is clear that nuclear cooperation accelerated in the 1990s. One report says
that cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea expanded into the nuclear and
missile areas in Benazir Bhutto’s second term (1993 to 1996) to include exchanges
of scientists and engineers.42 If Khan piggybacked his nuclear deals onto missile
cooperation, then he certainly would have had many more opportunities in the mid-
and late-1990s than before. As noted earlier, a Pakistani official involved in Khan’s
investigation reportedly said North Korea ordered P-1 centrifuge components from
It is clear that the Pakistan government sought to reorganize some of its nuclear
programs and structure following the May 1998 tests, reportedly because it was now
a “declared” nuclear weapons state. Part of this restructuring apparently included
issuing regulations for controlling nuclear exports. In June 2000, the Pakistani
government published an advertisement announcing procedures for commercial
exports of nuclear material. Prospective exporters would need a “no objection
certificate” from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, which would also have
the authority to verify and inspect all prospective nuclear exports. According to an
article in the Pakistan daily, Dawn:
The items listed in the advertisement can be in the form of metal alloys, chemical
compounds, or other materials containing any of the following: 1. Natural,
depleted, or enriched uranium; 2. Thorium, plutonium, or zirconium; 3. Heavy
water, tritium, or beryllium; 4. Natural or artificial radioactive materials with
more than 0.002 microcuries per gram; 5. Nuclear-grade graphite with a boron
equivalent content of less than five parts per million and density greater than44
Many of those items would be useful in a nuclear weapons program. The
advertisement also listed equipment “for production, use or application of nuclear
energy and generation of electricity” including:
!Nuclear power and research reactors
!Reactor pressure vessels and reactor fuel charging and discharging
!Primary coolant pumps
!Reactor control systems and items attached to the reactor vessels to
control core power levels or the primary coolant inventory of the
41 “Agencies Trace Iraqi Urenco Know-how to Pakistan Re-Export,” Nucleonics Week,
November 28, 1991.
42 B. Raman, “The Pakistan-North Korea Nexus,” [http://www.rediff.com], March 10, 2004.
43 “Scientist Claimed Nuclear Equipment Was Old, Official Says,” Los Angeles Times,
February 10, 2004.
44 “Government Regulates Export of Nuclear Materials,” Dawn, July 24, 2000.
!Neutron flux measuring equipment
!Welding machines for end caps for fuel element fabrication
!Gas centrifuges and magnet baffles for the separation of uranium
isotopes (emphasis added)
!UF6 mass spectrometers and frequency changers
!Exchange towers, neutron generator systems, and industrial gamma
These guidelines, which implied that fissile material could be exported,
apparently conflicted with earlier regulations. Several days later, Pakistan’s Ministry
of Commerce retracted the notice, saying that procedures were still under
consideration.45 The U.S. State Department reportedly responded by suggesting that
the regulations did not authorize such exports, but seemed to be drawn from
international control lists. U.S. and Pakistani officials apparently have been
discussing export control measures since at least 2000. A key feature of Pakistan’s
regulations, however, is the explicit exemption of Ministry of Defense agencies from
controls, which suggests that weapons programs under military leadership could skirt
domestic export control laws.46
U.S. Government Responses
U.S. officials reportedly raised with Islamabad suspicions of nuclear technology
transfers between Pakistan and North Korea in 2000, prompting an investigation that
revealed that KRL scientists had large deposits of money in their personal bank
accounts. Pakistani officials reportedly informed the United States that the
cooperation was conducted by individuals 47 In March 2001, reportedly at U.S.
insistence, A.Q. Khan was removed from his position as head of KRL, but retained
the post of presidential adviser until early 2004. Shortly after Khan’s dismissal,
Deputy Secretary of State Armitage was quoted by the Financial Times as saying that
“people who were employed by the nuclear agency and have retired” could be48
spreading nuclear technology to other states, including North Korea. A senior U.S.
nonproliferation official explained weeks later that Armitage’s statement led to49
confusion about the cooperation; that it was really limited to missile cooperation.
45 “Pakistan Clarifies Nuclear Export Control Guidelines, Arms Control Today, September
46 Srivastava, Anupam and Gahlaut, Seema, “Curbing Proliferation from Emerging
Suppliers: Export Controls in India and Pakistan,” Arms Control Today, September 2003.
47 “Pakistan Informed US of ‘Personal’ Nuclear Technology Transfer: Report” December
48 “US Fears North Korea Could Gain Nuclear Capability through Pakistan,” Financial
Times, June 1, 2001.
49 “North Korea Got a Little Help from Neighbors — Secret Nuclear Program Tapped
Russian Suppliers and Pakistani Know-How,” Wall Street Journal Europe, October 21,
June 25, 2001.
Initially after the allegations of October 2002, Pakistani officials denied any
involvement with North Korea’s nuclear program. Pakistan’s ambassador to the
United States, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, told the Washington Post that “No material, no
technology ever has been exported to North Korea,” adding that while “Pakistan has
engaged in trade with North Korea, nobody can tell us if there is evidence, no one is
challenging our word. There is no smoking gun.”50 Nonetheless, Secretary of State
Powell told ABC’s This Week that “President Musharraf gave me his assurance, as
he has previously, that Pakistan is not doing anything of that nature...The past is that
past. I am more concerned about what is going on now. We have a new relationship
with Pakistan.”51 Powell stressed that he has put President Musharraf on notice: “In
my conversations with President Musharraf, I have made clear to him that any, any
sort of contact between Pakistan and North Korea we believe would be improper,
inappropriate, and would have consequences.”52
Khan’s confession in 2004 raises an important question of whether the Pakistani
government knew of, aided, or abetted his nuclear assistance to North Korea. Khan
has alleged that military officials knew of the transfers, but few details have emerged.
One account states that Generals Musharraf, Karamat and Waheed knew of aid to
North Korea when they were chiefs of the Army staff.53 Pakistani officials have
consistently averred that any nuclear technology was transferred on a personal basis,
without the acquiescence or knowledge of the Pakistani government.54 This could
explain why the Bush Administration thus far, has not sought sanctions against
Pakistan. In a letter to key senators and members of Congress on March 12, 2003,
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly wrote that “the
Administration carefully reviewed the facts relating to the possible transfer of nuclear
technology from Pakistan to North Korea, and decided that they do not warrant the
imposition of sanctions under applicable U.S. laws.” However, President Musharraf
revealed in his 2006 memoir that he suspected Khan was cooperating with North
Koreans as early as 1999, when he received a report that “some North Korean nuclear
experts, under the guise of missile engineers, had arrived... and were being given
50 “Pakistan’s N. Korea Deals Stir Scrutiny; Aid to Nuclear Arms Bid May Be Recent,”
Washington Post, November 13, 2002.
51 Reported in “North Korea Got a Little Help from Neighbors — Secret Nuclear Program
Tapped Russian Suppliers and Pakistani Know-How,” Wall Street Journal Europe, October
52 Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2002.
53 “Musharraf Named In Nuclear Probe,” Washington Post, February 3, 2004.
54 “Pakistan informed US of ‘personal’ nuclear technology transfer,” Agence France-Presse,
December 25, 2002 (based on report from Jiji Press news agency). According to this and
other reports, the apparent tip-off was tens of thousands of dollars deposited into the
personal bank accounts of Pakistani scientists at Kahuta (Khan Research Laboratories).
55 “In Book, Musharraf Expands on North Korean Nuclear Link,” Washington Post, Sept.
Apparently President Musharraf sought to dampen rumors that Pakistan traded
nuclear secrets for missile help by stating that “whatever we bought from North
Korea is with money.”56 Evidence of such a barter would clearly implicate the
Pakistani military and government, which could complicate U.S. decisions on aid to
Pakistan and possibly trigger U.S. sanctions.
One analyst has suggested that Pakistan’s foreign currency reserve crisis in 1996
might have made a barter arrangement attractive.57 In that year, the government was
able to avoid defaulting on external debt with help from the International Monetary
Fund and borrowed $500M from domestic banks.58 The reserves at that time were
$773 million, the equivalent of about three weeks of imports.59 The next year, visits
of North Korean and Pakistani officials accelerated, although this could be attributed
solely to missile cooperation.
Issues for Congress
North Korea’s actions alone raise significant policy questions for Congress,
specifically, on how to roll back a capability that North Korea refuses to admit it has.
However, WMD trade between two proliferators raises a host of other issues that
may be pertinent to Congress’ oversight of nonproliferation programs and strategy
and counterterrorism. First, leverage is needed from outside the traditional
nonproliferation framework, since neither North Korea nor Pakistan is a member of
the missile or nuclear control regimes. China is an obvious source of leverage
because of its longstanding diplomatic, military, and economic ties to both countries,
but the development of a new relationship between the United States and Pakistan
based on counterterrorism cooperation may also be a source of leverage.
Second, this example of secondary proliferation highlights the critical roles of
sanctions, interdiction, and intelligence. Nonproliferation sanctions appear to have
had little effect on North Korea and Pakistan, while comprehensive sanctions against60
Libya, over thirty years, appear to have helped Libya decide to renounce its WMD.
Although intelligence information was used to help alert Pakistani officials to Khan’s
technology trade, interdiction appeared to play a secondary role. It is not yet clear
whether Khan’s forced retirement in 2001 cut off trade (in which case intelligence
would have played a leading role) or whether it continued beyond that, until
inspections in Iraq and Libya’s confessions made Khan’s position untenable.
56 “Pakistan Rejects Nuclear Inspection,” London Financial Times, February 18, 2004.
57 Daniel A. Pinkston, “When Did WMD Deals between Pyongyang and Islamabad Begin?”
58 “Emerging Market ADRs -2: Pakistan Currency Reserves Low,” Dow Jones News Service,
February 4, 1997.
59 Currently they stand at about $10 billion.
60 Martin Indyk, “The Iraq War Did Not Force Gadaffi’s Hand,” London Financial Times,
March 9, 2004. Indyk reveals that Libya approached the United States in 1999 to discuss
eliminating its WMD.
Further, intelligence information has not been able to locate uranium enrichment
facilities in North Korea. Congress may wish to explore, in the context of the
President’s nonproliferation initiatives outlined on February 11, 2004, how to
improve these capabilities.
The example of WMD trade between North Korea and Pakistan raises particular
questions about how to interpret proliferation threats within the nexus of terrorism
and WMD. Do these developments compromise the security of the United States and
its allies because Pakistan and North Korea are developing new capabilities, or
because sales of sensitive technologies continue unabated and could expand to
terrorists? Since September 2001, the nexus of proliferation of WMD and terrorism
has been called one of the greatest threats to U.S. security. Although North Korea
is one of the seven state sponsors of terrorism, some in the administration believe that
the nexus of terrorism and WMD is not as pronounced in North Korea as it has been
elsewhere, for example, in Iraq.61 Others believe, however, that there is a danger of
North Korea proliferating its nuclear technology. Pakistan, while not a state sponsor
of terrorism, clearly has terrorist activities on its soil, and potential terrorist access
to its nuclear weapons has been a particular concern since September 11, 2001. At
that time, nonproliferation concerns about Pakistan centered on the security of the
Pakistani nuclear arsenal from terrorists and the activities of Pakistani nuclear
scientists providing assistance to terrorists or other states. The inadvertent leakage
of nuclear know-how appeared to be a serious threat. Although the Pakistani
government repeatedly has assured the world that its nuclear program is safe, there
are those who believe this may not be true. In the case of trade with North Korea, it
is unclear whether alleged nuclear transfers occurred with the blessing of the
Pakistani government or on the personal initiative of scientists. Some have
maintained that Pakistan should be able to provide evidence that it provided cash —
rather than nuclear technology — in return for North Korean missiles and
components that apparently were loaded onto government-owned C-130 aircraft.
Others maintain the United States should press harder for direct access to Khan to
learn the scope of his activities.
A broader question is whether the Bush Administration has given higher
priority, since September 2001, to cooperation on counterterrorism than to
cooperation in nonproliferation. For example, when North Korea shipped Scud
missiles to Yemen in December 2002, North Korea was sanctioned while Yemen was
not sanctioned for receiving them; Yemen has been actively cooperating with the
United States in counterterrorism activities.62 When asked if the countries that
provided assistance to North Korea on the enrichment program would risk being cut
off from U.S. assistance, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer responded:
61 Remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Hearing on North Korea, February 4, 2003.
62 When asked at the daily press briefing on December 11, 2002 about waiving sanctions
against Yemen for its receipt of Scuds from North Korea, State Department Richard
Boucher said, “We decided to waive it because of the commitments that they [Yemen] had
made and in consideration of their support for the war on terrorism.” He later elaborated
that “We have done a lot of cooperation, training, exchange of information, law enforcement
cooperation with the Government of Yemen and we want to continue to do that.”
Well, yes, since September 11th, many things that people may have done years
before September 11th or some time before September 11th, have changed.
September 11th changed the world and it changed many nations’ behaviors along
with it. And don’t read that to be any type of acknowledgment of what may or63
may not be true. But September 11th did change the world.
Fleischer’s statement appears to imply that forgiveness of proliferation that
occurred before September 11, 2001 is in order because counterterrorism takes
precedence over counterproliferation. Combating terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction, however, are both important objectives for the United States and
Congress may consider, in its oversight role, how we can successfully balance both.
Pakistan is clearly a key ally in the global war on terror, but the considerable
uncertainty about the Pakistani government’s involvement in Khan’s activities,
particularly with respect to North Korea, raises questions about its past, but also
future, cooperation in combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
63 Transcript, White House press briefing, October 18, 2002.