North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his 2018 New Year’s address proudly declared, “The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office”. The US president Trump immediately took to the twitter, his favorite medium of conversation, to hit back at Pyongyang’s nuclear threat, saying that his button is “much bigger” and more powerful than Kim’s. With nukes between 25 and 60, as per U.S. intelligence assessments, North Korea poses major security threat for the US mainland and its allies in Europe. Despite severe economic sanctions, one wonders, how North Korean scientists learned sophistication in Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities?
A UN Panel of Experts (UN PoE) report revealed that, number of North Korean Scientists who are part of Pyongyang’s nuclear program,studied courses on space science and satellite technology at a research institute, Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP), in northern India. According to the UN report, between 1995 and 2016, 30 North Korean students have studied courses on space science and satellite technology at a research institute, Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP), in northern India.
CSSTEAP, which is located in Dehradun, capital city of the state of Uttarakhand, offers extensive courses on Satellite Communications, Space & Atmospheric Science, Global Navigation Satellite Systems and many other disciplines related to space exploration. The Centre is hosted by the Government of India with the Department of Space (DOS), as the nodal agency. In an interview to Al Jazeera, Hong Yong-il, who studied at CSSTEAP,now Korean embassy’s new first secretary to India, praised center for informative courses. Interestingly UN Panel of Experts(PoE) report notes that “(Participation) in the space and atmospheric science and global navigation satellite systems courses is a ballistic missile-related activity prohibited under the resolutions”.
A UN PoE report clearly indicates that New Delhi has violated UN Security Council’s unanimously adopted resolution 1718 (2006), which prohibited the provision of large-scale arms, nuclear technology and related training to the North Korea.
It is an open secret that India shares an unholy nuclear connection with North Koreaand quite surprisingly this is a lost debate in mainstream scholarship on nuclear crisis in Korean Peninsula. India’s facilitation of Korean students still remains a mystery despite UN PoE repots and subsequent investigative report by Al Jazeera titled as “India’s embarrassing North Korean connection, in June 2016.
India rejected Al Jazeera’s report calling it ‘baseless and without any merit.’The Indian ministry of external affairs stated “the report is subjective and based on the limited understanding of the experts who have authored it. India has made its position clear in this regard to the UN Security Council. The topics covered in the courses offered by CSSTEAP are very general and cover basic principles in the respective areas,” But when UN officials raised objections on courses offering satellite communications training and instructions for launch vehicle testing to North Koreans”, India stopped accepting North Korean students. It means, the courses offered to North Koreans were not that simple as India claimed. Once exposed by the UN PoE, India’s immediate rejection to North Korean students also substantiate UN official’s concerns.
Subsequent events clearly suggest that India is not clean regarding its nuclear connection with Pyongyang. Paek Chong-ho, who studied satellite communications training and instructions for launch vehicle testing at CSSTEAP, was appointed at a senior post in the agency governing North Korea’s 2012 satellite launch. In addition to that, Paek, another CSSTEAP alumnus, is now a senior official at a scientific research agency. All these evidences by UN officials report not just remove mysterious clouds from New Delhi’s clandestine relations with Pyongyang but also put a question mark on India’s nuclear nonproliferation commitments.
India helped and trained North Korean students and it has been acknowledged by various experts focusing North Korea’s nuclear affairs. Bruce Bechtol, president of the International Council on Korean Studies in an email conversation stated that the courses offered to North Korean students at CSSTEAP may very well have helped Pyongyang’s military programmes,”
In Another violation of UN sanctions, North Korea illegally exported coal, iron and other commodities worth $270 million to India and some other countries. According to the UN experts, between October 2016 and May 2017, North Korea exported iron and steel products valued at $305,713 to India and many other countries. Additionally, India also imported silver, copper, zinc, nickel and gold from the DPRK which is violation of UNSC sanction. This clandestine import-export relationship between India and North Korea enabled later to sustain a costly nuclear program.
But more worrisomely, last year, a cybersecurity firm, Recorded Future, found intense North Korean internet activity in India where nearly one-fifth of North Korea’s cyberattacks originate. Even, researchers believe that hackers from North Korea are physically stationed in India and consistently hacking US and other European cites.
It is an open secret that, for several years, after UNSC sanctions, India and North Korea have maintained a strong trading partnership. Quite surprisingly, when UNSC sanctioned North Korea, the trade volume between both countries, barely $100 in mid of 2000 suddenly shoot up to the $1 billion in 2009. The trade which overwhelmingly favors India makes it second largest trade partner to North Korea. That means, in return to nuclear cooperation, there is an economic incentive for India. That’s why India calls its relationship with North Korea as relationship of ‘friendship, cooperation, and understanding.
However, it’s extremely important for international community to seek investigations into India’s nuclear linkages with North Korea. Through a comprehensive investigation process, those who are responsible can be held accountable for extending nuclear assistance to a rogue state which pose a greater security risk for entire world.