The creator of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program has handed over documents that he says show senior military officials were paid millions to give nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, putting further strain on a tense US-Pakistan relationship.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, an American-trained scientist and head of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program for over 20 years, says that two senior Pakistani military officials kickbacks from North Korea in exchange for the technology.
Khan gave documents to Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who is seen as an expert on Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
“He gave me this several years ago, and though he didn’t explain his motivation, I suspect he saw it as an insurance policy,” said Henderson to the New York Times. “He saw it as a crucial document that could completely reverse the accepted narrative that he was a rogue agent.”
Included in the documents is a letter purportedly written, in English, by a North Korean official to Khan from 1998. The letter describes the deal in question, noting that General Jehangir Karamat, then the head of the Pakistani military, had received a payment of $3 million, and a second general receiving "half a million dollars and 3 diamond and ruby sets." The letter also requested that “the agreed documents, components, etc.” be placed on a Pyongyang-bound plane, which would be used to deliver missile parts to Pakistan.
The letter also refers to a Mr. Yon, who had "served in Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Libya." Aside from Egypt, the remaining countries are known to have purchased designs and equipment to develop nuclear technology from North Korea.
The author of the letter, Jon Byong Ho, has been named by American intelligence as the man in charge of the country's missile and technology trade.
The letter was passed on by Henderson to the Washington Post "some time ago", and was published on Thursday.
Khan was placed under house arrest in 2003 for selling nuclear technology outside of the country, including North Korea. Siegfried S. Hecker, a nuclear expert from Stanford University, noted that the nuclear centrifuge facility he saw on his 2010 trip to North Korea was very similar to the Pakistani design.
The revealing of this letter will likely cause further instability in the tense relationship between Pakistan and the US, which has been on shaky ground since the discovery of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in the country earlier this year. CIA director Leon Panetta, in reference to the country's role in protecting bin Laden, "was either involved or incompetent."
Pakistan currently receives $1.3 billion per year in aide from the US, although Congress is considering lowering that amount if it turns out the Pakistani government knew where the former head of al Qaeda was hiding.