In a double-cross between nations President Bush (search) has labeled parts of an "axis of evil" (search) with Iran, North Korea apparently bilked Saddam's Iraq out of millions of dollars in a missile deal gone sour, according to chief CIA weapons hunter David Kay (search).
In 1999, Saddam's minions sought some clandestine missile help from North Korea, Kay told reporters Friday. He described it as evidence Iraq intended to build long-range missiles in violation of U.N. prohibitions.
The North Koreans were willing, particularly after Saddam plunked down a $10 million down payment. In exchange, Pyongyang was to provide parts from its No Dong class of ballistic missiles, a sort of super-Scud that can hit targets 800 miles distant, as well as send some other, unspecified assistance.
A contract was inked. The money was sent.
By 2002, Pyongyang hadn't delivered.
"As a result of the Iraqis' inquiring 'Where is the stuff we paid for?', the North Koreans said, 'There's so much U.S. attention on us that we cannot deliver it,'" Kay said. "The Iraqis said, 'Well, we don't like this, but give us our $10 million back.'"
The North Koreans refused, and kept refusing until Saddam's regime fell in April.
Kay described Iraqi documents that contained increasingly desperate entreaties from the Iraqis for the money.
"It's a lesson in negotiating with the North Koreans, as the Iraqis found out the hard way," Kay said. "Money in advance may not come your way if there's non-delivery on a contract."