18 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.

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.

The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan. In May 2020, the facility reported numerous infections during the midst of a planned refuelling and maintenance outage.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Journal Article - The RUSI Journal

Security Under Strain? Protecting Nuclear Materials During the Coronavirus Pandemic

| June 28, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the nuclear industry, complicating operations and altering the delivery of both safety and security. This has generated concerns over the ability of governments and industry to provide vital services, while also protecting against changing threats that have evolved to take advantage of the pandemic. Christopher Hobbs, Nickolas Roth and Daniel Salisbury examine the nuclear security community’s response to this challenge, exploring how the risk landscape has been changed by the pandemic and the efficacy of new security solutions.

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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer uses a handheld GR135- Radiation Isttope Identifier to check a container that was stopped after passing through a radiation detection device at the port of Newark in February 2006 (AP Photo/Mel Evans).

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Combating Nuclear Smuggling? Exploring Drivers and Challenges to Detecting Nuclear and Radiological Materials at Maritime Facilities

| June 03, 2019

International concern over nuclear terrorism has grown during the past few decades. This has driven a broad spectrum of efforts to strengthen nuclear security globally, including the widespread adoption of radiation-detection technology for border monitoring. Detection systems are now deployed at strategic locations for the purported purpose of detecting and deterring the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. However, despite considerable investment in this area, few studies have examined how these programs are implemented or the operational challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This article seeks to address this with a focus on radiation-detection efforts at maritime facilities. Utilizing practitioner interviews and a survey, this article identifies the factors that influence the planning and use of these systems in this fast-moving environment. The results clearly demonstrate that the implementation of these systems varies significantly across different national and organizational contexts, resulting in a fragmented global nuclear-detection architecture, which arguably undermines efforts to detect trafficked nuclear-threat materials. Greater consideration should therefore be given to developing international standards and guidance, designing and adopting tools to support key parts of the alarm assessment process, and broader sharing of good practice.

FBI agents leaving a raid.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Going it Alone: The Causes and Consequences of U.S. Extraterritorial Counterproliferation Enforcement

| Mar. 25, 2019

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1540, which acknowledged the non-state acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a security threat and called on member states to implement “appropriate effective” domestic trade controls. The United States, however, has both promoted the multilateral implementation of strategic trade controls but has also increasingly resorted to extraterritorial enforcement of its counterproliferation rules. How can a multilateral, norms-based international regime like 1540 contend with extraterritorial enforcement based on national interests? We argue that increased U.S. extraterritorial counterproliferation policies are a consequence of the inconsistent implementation of resolution 1540, adaptive and resilient proliferation networks, and a history of expanding legal interpretations of jurisdiction. We find that while U.S. extraterritorial enforcement can effectively disrupt networks hiding in overseas jurisdictions, doing so creates disincentives for states to implement 1540 obligations and undermines broader nonproliferation objectives.

FBI agents leave a raid in Trenton, N.J. on July 19, 2012

Julio Cortez/AP

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Long Arm

| February 2019

The networks of middlemen and intermediaries involved in the illicit procurement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related goods and technologies often operate outside of the United States, which presents several legal and political challenges regarding U.S. trade control enforcement activities. This report considers the extraterritorial efforts of U.S. law enforcement in counterproliferation-related activities and their implications. In other words, how does the United States contend with violations of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related trade controls in overseas jurisdictions, and what are the implications for broader U.S. and international nonproliferation efforts, as well as wider international security and economic concerns? 

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.