Pyongyang Has Dozens of Nukes, Top Defector Says
The Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 14 May 2003
A man claiming to be a former North Korean People's Army general who fled the impoverished state last year has told a Japanese publication that Pyongyang secretly imported nuclear bombs from the former Soviet Union and developed dozens of its own weapons.
The claims were among details about the Stalinist state's military command and its leader Kim Jong-Il contained in an article in the June edition of the respected Gekkan Gendai (Modern Times Monthly), based on an interview.
The general told the magazine that North Korea secretly imported nuclear bombs from the former Soviet Union in 1983 and now has four Soviet-made nuclear missiles which, with a range of 8,000 kilometres, could reach the west coast of the United States.
"The North Korean army even has tens of nuclear weapons it has developed itself in addition to those made by the former Sovet Union," the general was quoted as saying.
The four nuclear-tipped missiles are stored at an underground site in Potaeri, in Samjiyon district at the foot of Mount Paekdu on the border with China, he said.
The article said the general was the "highest ranked" North Korean defector since Hwang Jang-Yop, top ideologue and secretary of the ruling Workers Party, was granted political asylum in South Korea in 1997.
The magazine withheld the man's name, rank and other details at his request, using the pseudonym, An Yong-Chol.
A Gendai editor told AFP the general was aged around 60 and lives in an Asian country, and that the interview was held in mid-April. He declined to say where the interview took place.
An claimed to have served in the army for more than 30 years, the last 10 years close to Kim Jong-Il, and had met the supreme leader many times.
He told the magazine his former position meant that he continued to get information from North Korea's elite, adding, "I maintain channels with the Kim Jong-Il family."
Kim has an "operation team" made up some 120 top cadres from the Korean People's Army and the Korean Workers Party, An said.
It is headed by General Kim Tu-Nam and includes Vice Marshal Jo Myong-Rok, director of the army's general political department and Vice Marshal Kim Yong-Chun, chief of general staff.
An also said Kim Jong-Il bought more than 20 sophisticated MiG-31 fighters and deployed them near Pyongyang in 2000.
But An's revelations met with a cautious response from analysts here, who said defectors are often keen to inflate their value or distort information for various purposes.
"The former Soviet Union was most careful not to allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons, even to Warsaw Pact allies," said Hideshi Takesada, professor at the National Institute for Defence Studies.
"This may possibly be a (case of a) defector who has been sent by the North or wants to whip up fear as a gift for the North," he said.
Pyon Jin-Il, editor of the Korea Report newsletter, said he could not believe MiG planes had been sold without being detected by South Korea or the United States, and with Vladmir Putin in charge in Moscow.