This Is Trump’s Opportunity to Reveal Iran’s Role in Arming North Korea

    James Robbins

    Security, Middle East

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA/Files ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETI

    The exact nature and extent of the illicit relationship between North Korea and Iran is not publicly known, but this could easily be rectified with Pyongyang’s help.

    Does the road to Tehran lead through Singapore? Hopes are high that next week’s summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will begin a process leading to the total, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But North Korea can also play a major role in the broader global effort against nuclear proliferation.

    When it comes to illicit nuclear weapons programs, North Korea is the undisputed master. Despite their best efforts, the administrations of Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The Kim dynasty manipulated negotiations, evaded sanctions, bluffed, begged, borrowed and stole its way into the nuclear club. And it did so despite having one of the weakest, most backward economies in the world.

    So now we want to know how the regime did it, and most importantly, who else helped the regime to achieve that goal. National Security Advisor John Bolton was criticized for talking about a “Libya option” for North Korean denuclearization. His critics wrongly focused on Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grisly fate after his NATO-assisted overthrow and killing in 2011. But Qaddafi’s death was the product of a misguided Obama administration policy that wound up destabilizing Libya and turning it into a terrorist playground. Betraying Qaddafi was a serious net loss for the United States in the region, and Hillary Clinton’s strangely flippant comment, “We came, we saw, he died,” only worsened the situation. That was obviously not what Bolton meant.

    The relevant Libyan option dates to 2003, when Bolton served as the undersecretary of state for verification and arms control. In December of that year, Qaddafi agreed to abandon his illicit nuclear weapons program and handed over tons of hardware and documents detailing every aspect of his undertakings. Revelations from this intelligence trove helped expose the nuclear proliferation ring run by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, which had boosted weapons programs in Libya, North Korea and Iran. Breaking up the Khan network was even more important than ending Qaddafi’s rudimentary nuclear program.

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