WASHINGTON – The founder of Pakistan's nuclear bomb program claims the North Korean government bribed top military officials in Pakistan to obtain access to sensitive nuclear technology in the late 1990s, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Abdul Qadeer Khan made available documents that he said supported his claim that he transferred more than $3 million in payments by North Korea to senior officers in the Pakistani military, the newspaper said on its website. Khan said the Pakistani military later approved his sharing of technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists.
Khan also released what he said was a copy of a North Korean official's 1998 letter to him, written in English, that purports to describe the secret deal, the newspaper said.
Some Western intelligence officials and other experts have said that they think the letter is authentic. Pakistani officials have called the letter a fake. Khan, who has been hailed in his country as a national hero, is at odds with many Pakistani officials, who have said he acted alone in selling nuclear secrets.
The Post said the assertions by Khan and the details in the letter could not be independently verified.
The letter Khan released is dated July 15, 1998, and marked "Secret," the newspaper said. The "3 millions dollars have already been paid" to one Pakistani military official and "half a million dollars" and some jewelry had been given to a second official, the letter said. It carries the apparent signature of North Korean Workers Party Secretary Jon Byong Ho. The text also says: "Please give the agreed documents, components, etc. to a ... (North Korean Embassy official in Pakistan) to be flown back when our plane returns after delivery of missile components."
Jehangir Karamat, a former Pakistani military chief named as the recipient of the $3 million, said the letter was untrue. In an e-mail to the newspaper from Lahore, Karamat said Khan, as part of his defense against allegations of personal responsibility for illicit nuclear proliferation, had tried "to shift blame on others."
The other official, retired Lt. Gen. Zulfiqar Khan, called the letter "a fabrication."
The letter was provided to the Post by former British journalist Simon Henderson. The newspaper said it verified Henderson had obtained it from Khan.
Henderson said he provided the letter to the Post because he lacked the resources to authenticate it himself.