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Connecting the dots: N. Korea’s nuke was bought and paid for by a key end-user — Iran

Special to WorldTribune.com

Global Information System / Defense & Foreign Affairs

All intelligence indicators received and processed by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs show that the nuclear weapon tested by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) on Feb. 12, was paid for, and intended for, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It was, in essence, a test of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and involved scientific as well as financial involvement by the Iranian government.

Intel: Iran military delegation was present at N. Korean nuclear test (East-Asia-Intel.com, Feb. 13)

Intel: Iran military delegation was present at N. Korean nuclear test (East-Asia-Intel.com, Feb. 13)

[See: Intel: Iran military delegation was present at N. Korean nuclear test, East-Asia-Intel.com, Feb. 13, 2013 edition.]

Moreover, the weapon was not — as some media reporting has averred — a “step toward” a North Korean or Iranian nuclear weapons capability: it was in fact a demonstration of a common North Korean and Iranian operationally-ready nuclear weapon.

Just as North Korean officials indicated long before the first North Korean nuclear weapons demonstration on Oct. 9, 2006, that the North Koreans had effectively tested its weapons and proven their design in the May 1998 Chagai-I series of tests by Pakistan, so the North Korean tests — particularly the February 12, 2013, test, were to prove Iranian weapon design efficacy. However, given the commonality of the payload “nipple” on the Iranian and North Korean missiles, it seems likely that the nuclear weapon design tested would be the baseline system for both countries.

North Korea on Feb. 12, 2013, at 03.57hrs GMT detonated its third nuclear explosion, a miniaturized warhead, at an underground site at Punggye-ri. Even by Feb. 14, 2013, there was no detectable aerial evidence of the test, so well protected was the test site.

However, seismic data indicated — through two different methods — that the warhead yield was at least double that of the second nuclear test on May 25, 2009, and was either six to seven kiloton yield or 10 kiloton yield, and was from a warhead sufficiently small to fit into the nose compartment already in service on the North Korea’s Taepo-Dong 2 and Iran’s Shihab 3D intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Initial interpretations of the limited evidence available soon after the detonation indicated that the weapon was a normal nuclear warhead (uranium and plutonium), and not the next-stage weapon on which the North Koreans had been working. That would be a boosted-fission weapon, just below the level of a thermonuclear warhead.

The Feb. 12, weapon was below the boosted fission level weapon. There was a large satcom terminal near the entrance to the test site (which was unusual), and it was believed that this was because the weapon was, indeed, a joint Iranian-North Korean weapon, and was, in fact, funded by Iran.

Intelligence sources noted that there were significant numbers of Iranians present at the test site.

Significantly, there were two test sites being prepared; one, heavily camouflaged, and the one used for the Feb. 12, 2013, test, indicating that a follow-on detonation was possible in the weeks following the third weapon test.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs has consistently reported on Iran’s procurement activities related to foreign-sourced nuclear weapons over the past two decades, beginning with the February 1992 report “Iran Acquires Nuclear Weapons And Moves To Provide Cover to Syria” [accessible through GIS’ Iran Special Reports].

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