In addition to news about North Korea’s successful rocket launch, reports have recently emerged signaling that experts from the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) have been permanently stationed in North Korea, most likely near the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (a.k.a. Tongchang-ri, a.k.a. where the rocket was launched).
Experts believe that the Unha-3 is likely the product of a joint project between the two countries, noting the similarities in designs between this rocket and Iran’s Safir. The U.S. Intelligence Community also believes that the engines used in the Safir were the product of North Korean technology.
Those in charge of ensuring UN Security Council’s resolutions in both countries point out that they continue to exchange missile technology. Similar to naughty schoolchildren passing notes in the back of the classroom, Iran and North Korea have been using commercial airlines to transport missile components.
This sort of collusion is old news. Officially, collaboration agreements listed involve sustainable development, education, agriculture and the environment. However, Iranian and North Korean cooperation in other fields dates back to the Iran-Iraq war. During this time Iran funded the Hwasong missile series in exchange for getting to observe flight tests and 100 units of the completed missiles (Shahab-1). In the 1990s Iran is believed to have sent telemetry data to North Korea in order to help them circumvent a suspension of their missile program. Their current show-and-tell involves North Korea helping Iran with airborne separation of their ballistic missiles in exchange for civil engineering expertise.
This partnership is especially troubling because of where it could be heading now. North Korea has successfully put a satellite into orbit and is likely to soon be able to attach warheads to long-range missiles. If they have been willing to share information in the past, what is to stop them from sharing data on nuclear programs? Trade sanctions, though their effectiveness remains to be seen, have been imposed on hardware and technology exchanges, but how can one control the exchange of information? Computer data can be (and has been) destroyed remotely, but how does one stop people from talking to each other and sharing the knowledge stored in their brains? Any and all suggestions are welcome. This author has stumped herself.