10 Items

Mads Brügger Receives Lux Film Prize in 2019

Wikimedia Commons/ European Parliament

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Of Moles and Missiles: Anatomy of a North Korean Arms Deal?

| Apr. 08, 2022

In October 2020, a parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers Party showcased a range of new weapons systems, including a new large intercontinental ballistic missile. The same weekend saw the release of a fascinating documentary film directed by provocative Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger, entitled The Mole: Undercover in North Korea. The film consists of footage—much of it filmed undercover—that was shot over a period of 10 years. It tells the story of a retired Danish chef’s infiltration of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), an international organization that seeks to promote the ideology, history, and culture of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and defend the country from its critics. The story culminates in the exploration of plans for a series of sanctions-busting deals: constructing an underground arms factory on a Ugandan island, shipping oil to North Korea, and supplying arms to unspecified customers of Pyongyang through a private arms dealer. This review essay seeks to contextualize the film’s contents, consider the insights it offers into North Korea’s arms dealing, and examine a number of questions that arise.

North Korea celebrates Victory Day in 2013

Stefan Krasowski

Journal Article - Intelligence and National Security

Countering a Technological Berlin Tunnel: North Korean Operatives, Helicopters, and Intelligence in the Cold War Illicit Arms Trade, 1981-1986

| Apr. 04, 2022

This article considers the relationship between intelligence and the arms trade by examining North Korea’s procurement of 86 Hughes helicopters in the 1980s. Using recently declassified documents, the article contextualises the case using US intelligence assessments of North Korea’s procurement, and considers the role of the DPRK’s diplomats in Berlin, and the Western powers’ response. This history provides insights into the use of intelligence operatives for arms procurement, the role of intelligence agencies in monitoring the illicit arms trade, and the challenges in collection, analysis and acting on the intelligence surrounding arms trafficking.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe lands at Brize Norton, UK

UK government/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Analysis & Opinions - The Conversation

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Iranian Arms Dealing Continued in the UK even after Notorious Tank Deal Fell Apart in 1979

| Mar. 22, 2022

Following her release from detention in Iran, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held hostage since 2016, said: “what happened now should have happened six years ago”. She was referring to the fact that her release had been secured at the same time as the British government paid Iran a debt it had owed since the first day of her detention – and had in fact owed since the 1970s.

The embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Moscow in 2008 (Denghu/Wikimedia Commons).

Denghu/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Asian Security

Spies, Diplomats and Deceit: Exploring the Persistent Role of Diplomatic Missions in North Korea’s WMD Proliferation and Arms Trafficking Networks

| July 05, 2021

North Korea frequently uses diplomatic missions, diplomats and intelligence officers in its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation and arms trafficking networks. The paper places the use of these assets in historical context, provides a basic typology of their role, and considers why they have featured in North Korea’s networks. The paper identifies a number of trends surrounding the use of North Korean missions – including the types and locations of missions featuring in specific types of proliferation and arms dealing activities, the prominence of larger missions and use of third country and regional hubs. It argues that the persistence of these assets in the DPRK’s networks is largely a result of convenience and diplomatic immunity. The paper concludes by recommending further action to counter these assets while arguing that the phenomenon will continue to be a challenging feature of North Korea’s proliferation and arms trading activities.

President Khamenei visit an Iran-Iraq war battlefield in August 1988.

Khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Intelligence and National Security

Arming Iran from the heart of Westminster? The Iranian military procurement offices, rumours and intelligence, 1981–1987

| June 10, 2020

During the Iran-Iraq war there were extensive rumours in the press regarding Iran’s use of Iranian Military Procurement Offices (IMPOs) in London to purchase arms. This article seeks to interrogate the facts behind these rumours: what was going on inside the IMPOs? How much intelligence did the British government have about this? Not a huge amount – largely a result of the IMPOs being a challenging target and Britain’s intelligence priorities in London lying elsewhere. More broadly the paper seeks to provide insights into the challenges of gathering intelligence from – and responding to the activities of – foreign government targets on home turf, as well as providing insights into an under-considered area of intelligence – that surrounding embargoes and sanctions.

An anti-nuclear weapons protest march in, Oxford, England in 1980 (Kim Traynor/Wikimedia).

Kim Traynor/Wikimedia

Book - Routledge

Secrecy, Public Relations and the British Nuclear Debate

| Mar. 05, 2020

The opening of the British archives has seen historians uncover the secrets of the UK's nuclear weapons programme since the 1990s. While a growing number have sought to expose these former secrets, there has been less effort to consider government secrecy itself. What was kept a secret, when and why? And how and why, notably from the 1980s, did the British government decide to officially disclose greater information about the British nuclear weapons programme to Members of Parliament, journalists, defence academics and the tax-paying general public. 

A North Korean military parade (Stefan Krasowski via Flickr).

Stefan Krasowski via Flickr

Journal Article - Defense and Security Analysis

An Evolving State of Play? Exploring Competitive Advantages of State Assets in Proliferation Networks

| Jan. 17, 2019

Illicit procurement networks often target industry in developed economies to acquire materials and components of use in WMD and military programs. These procurement networks are ultimately directed by elements of the proliferating state and utilize state resources to undertake their activities: diplomats and missions, state intelligence networks, and state-connected logistical assets. These state assets have also been utilized to facilitate the export of WMD and military technologies in breach of sanctions. While used in most historic proliferation cases, their role has seen limited consideration in the scholarly literature. This article seeks to systematically contextualize state resources in proliferation networks, arguing that their use lies between state criminality and routine activity in support of national security. Considering the competitive advantages of these assets compared to similar resources available in the private sector, the article argues that nonproliferation efforts have caused states to change how they use these resources through an ongoing process of competitive adaptation.

People at Seoul Train Station watch a a local news program reporting about a North Korean missile launch. Aug. 30, 2017 (Lee Jin-man/Associated Press).

Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

Journal Article - The RUSI Journal

North Korea’s Missile Programme and Supply-Side Controls: Lessons for Countering Illicit Procurement

| Oct. 17, 2018

Despite one of the most extensive sanctions regimes in history, including an embargo on missile technologies, North Korea has taken huge steps forward in its ballistic missile programme. Daniel Salisbury explores the limitations of, and challenges of implementing, supply-side approaches to missile nonproliferation. Considering North Korea’s recent progress and efforts to evade sanctions, the article highlights the continuing need to strengthen efforts to counter illicit trade in missile-related technologies.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Azharsofii/Wikimedia).

Azharsofii/Wikimedia

Journal Article - European Journal of International Security

Exploring the Use of 'Third Countries' in Proliferation Networks: The Case of Malaysia

| Aug. 10, 2018

‘Third countries’ are frequently exploited by those involved in networks to transfer proliferation-sensitive technologies, allowing procurement agents to obscure the end user or vendor located in the proliferating state, and to deceive industry, export licensing officials, and intelligence services. While ‘third countries’ frequently feature in illicit transactions, the academic literature exploring the roles played by entities in these jurisdictions is limited. Building on the sanctions busting literature, this article proposes a loose typology considering the ways in which third countries can be exploited by proliferation networks. The typology is illustrated using three cases involving entities based in Malaysia – A. Q. Khan’s nuclear black market network, and Iran and North Korea’s efforts to procure and market WMD-related and military goods. These cases are used to generate insights into proliferators’ selection of ‘third country’ hubs. The article argues that while exploitation of third countries by proliferation networks is a similar, but distinct phenomenon to trade-based sanctions busting, hubs of both activities share characteristics. Furthermore, the article argues that other factors beyond the lax regulatory environment, such as level of development, and personal connections, are often as important in driving the decisions of proliferation networks. The article concludes with implications for nonproliferation policy.