Report: North Korea may have aided Hezbollah

Ronery Kim gets around.

North Korea may have given arms to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, according to a report compiled for Congress that could complicate U.S. plans to drop Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklist.

The report obtained on Wednesday by Reuters was written by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which provides independent analysis to Congress, and cited “reputable sources” as saying Pyongyang had given arms and possibly training to the militant groups, which Washington regards as “terrorist” organizations.

As part of a deal to get Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Washington has dangled the possibility of removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism if it fully discloses its nuclear programs.

It said that in September 2006, Paris Intelligence Online, a French Internet publication that specializes in political and economic intelligence, had published details of an extensive North Korean program to give arms and training to Hezbollah.

The French publication said the program began in the 1980s with visits by Hezbollah members to North Korea for training and expanded after 2000 with the dispatch of North Koreans to Lebanon to train Hezbollah members how to build underground bunkers to store arms, food and medical facilities.

It said this training “significantly improved Hezbollah’s ability to fight the Israelis” during the 2006 war.

The CRS document also cited a report by a prominent South Korean academic, Moon Chung-in, that the Mossad Israeli intelligence agency believed that “vital missile components” used by Hezbollah against Israel came from North Korea.

There may be a knee-jerk reaction to try to pin this cooperation on President Bush’s inclusion of North Korea in the “axis of evil.” The fact that the North Korea/Hezbollah relationship began in the 1980s is unlikely to slow the knee-jerkers down much. They still think our problems with al Qaeda and with Iraq began in 2001.