At their meeting in June, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un reached a tentative agreement for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program, although not only do many details remain to be worked out but it is not even clear that the initial agreement will endure. Dany Shoham considers what impact these negotiations might have on Iran’s longstanding alliance with North Korea, which is based largely on sharing military technology:
Surreptitious Iranian-North Korean cooperation has a long history. Its main component is close technological cooperation in the fields of missiles and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Each country has its own know-how that it contributes to that cooperation. Iran substantially foots the bill. . . .
How will Iranian-North Korean [relations] change [in the wake of a Washington-Pyongyang thaw]? First, [the two rogue regimes are] likely to strengthen their counterintelligence capabilities in order to maintain covert reciprocal activities. North Korean know-how regarding unconventional weapons—know-how that has not yet passed to Iran—will presumably be transferred. Iran might try hard to get Pyongyang to convey to Iran, rather than declare, any elite North Korean personnel and as yet undeclared critical technological components—and possibly actual weaponry—currently in North Korean facilities. Existing joint programs concerning missiles, particularly those designed to carry unconventional warheads, might be relocated in part to Iran. . . .
Iran has much to lose if North Korea entirely meets the requirements likely to be imposed by the U.S. and will endeavor to hamper any such development. The American-North Korean-Iranian triangle . . . has far-reaching strategic ramifications. The dynamics underlying it have two elements: the visible element of the recently established relationship between Pyongyang and Washington and the largely invisible element of Pyongyang’s long relationship with Tehran. The first element will be influenced by China, and perhaps also by Russia—but the second will retain its autonomy, its clandestine nature, and possibly its inaccessibility. This is a matter of serious concern, as Iran stands to be endowed with rescued North Korean assets. . . .
Sign Up For Our E-Mail List Get the latest from Mosaic right in your inbox
Sign up now for unlimited access