What remains of Pyongyang’s former role as a significant arms supplier to the region?
Over the years, North Korea has sold arms to a number of Middle Eastern nations, and according to analysts, Pyongyang continues to be a significant arms supplier to the region, especially Iran, non-state actors, and occasionally even US allies. Iran is one of the most important recipients of North Korean arms, they say.
According to Bruce Bechtol, a political science professor at Angelo State University and an expert on the North Korean arms trade, Iran still relies heavily on North Korea for conventional weapons, much like it did during the Syrian civil war.
Financial considerations rather than ideological considerations continue to drive Pyongyang’s cooperation with Tehran.
North Korea exported a lot of simple, low-cost weapons to developing nations in the 1980s. During that time, up to 90% of these weapons were shipped to Iran and Libya.
Pyongyang grew more helpless and alone after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was more eager to sell sophisticated weapons to the Middle East in order to make money because its economy was in danger of collapsing.
In exchange for guarantees from Pyongyang that it would not sell long-range missiles to Israel’s adversaries in the Middle East, Israel offered to invest a sizeable sum in the struggling North Korean economy during that time. A skeptical Washington’s steadfast opposition to the deal was at least partially to blame for its failure.
“Pyongyang’s post-1991 exports to the Middle East were far more significant than those during the Cold War,” Bechtol said.
“In the 1980s, North Korea sold a lot of weapons to Iran, including Scud B/C missiles and conventional weapons. However, North Korea continued to sell goods to Iran starting in 1991, and it also established missile manufacturing facilities there. ”
Bechtol points out that North Korea has also worked with others on projects like an 80-ton rocket booster that is probably for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It has also sold Iran No Dong missiles, Musudan missiles, Taepo Dong missile components, and other missiles.
Bechtol claims that Syria has acquired chemical weapons as well as Scud C and D missiles from North Korea.
Additionally, they have sold a huge number of conventional weapons to both countries and their proxies. ”
Bechtol claims that rumors of a technology exchange between Pyongyang and Tehran are “completely untrue,” despite the fact that their militaries have long cooperated.
The seller and the purchaser
Iran is the purchaser, and North Korea is the seller, he declared. Iran’s missile programs are far behind North Korea’s, particularly those that Iran purchases from them.”
It is no secret that North Korean weapons frequently find their way into the hands of non-state actors in the Middle East, with Yemen serving as an excellent illustration.
A North Korean freighter carrying 15 Scud-type ballistic missiles was intercepted by the US Navy in 2002 on its way to Yemen, but it was quickly released because the delivery was legal under international law. The delivery was the final in a string of distributions that started in the 1990s when Sanaa placed a missile order with Pyongyang.