North Korea Continues to Stockpile Illicit Material, Puts Iran on Renewed Pathway to Nuclear Bomb

Pyongyang continues to stockpile illicit nuclear material on Iran’s behalf in order to help the Islamic Republic skirt restrictions implemented under the landmark nuclear deal. U.S. officials are closely monitoring an ongoing meeting between senior North Korean and Iranian officials that comes on the heels of a nuclear test by Pyongyang, according to senior Trump administration officials and other sources who expressed concern that North Korea is helping to put the Islamic Republic back on the pathway to a functional nuclear weapon.

North Korea’s latest nuclear test of a hydrogen bomb has roiled Trump administration officials and led President Donald Trump to consider multiple options for war. However, it also has renewed fears among U.S. officials and foreign policy insiders about Pyongyang’s long-standing relationship with Iran, which centers on providing the Islamic Republic with nuclear technology and know-how.

The head of North Korea’s parliament arrived this weekend in Iran for a 10-day visit aimed at boosting ties between the two countries amid an international crackdown on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. As North Korea makes progress in its nuclear pursuits, it is likely this information is being shared with senior Iranian officials who continue to maintain and build upon the country’s weapons program, despite the nuclear agreement, which only limits a portion of Iran’s nuclear enrichment and research abilities.

One senior U.S. official currently handling the Iranian and North Korean nuclear portfolios told the Free Beacon that the collaboration between these two countries is being closely monitored by the Trump administration, which will not hesitate to take action to disrupt this relationship.

“The history of collaboration between North Korea and Iran has been an ongoing concern and needs to be watched closely,” the official told the Free Beacon. “We’ve been laboring under the false assumption that these oppressive regimes are rational and that we can persuade them to act for the greater good. President Trump has made it clear those days are at an end, and that the United States will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from turning into another North Korea.”

Iran and North Korea have long collaborated on their missile programs and nuclear technology, and the U.S. intelligence community continues to monitor ongoing efforts by the two countries to boost cooperation. Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea’s parliament, reportedly arrived in Iran on Thursday for a high-profile meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that is likely to center around Tehran’s quest for technology and North Korea’s need for hard currency and financial assets.

Iran has been flush with cash and other financial assets since the nuclear agreement lifted international sanctions and opened the Islamic Republic to new business ties. United Nation’s Ambassador Nikki Halley said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “begging for war” and urged the U.N.’s Security Council to consider a strong response.

“Enough is enough,” Haley was quoted as saying. “War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited.”

Israeli officials also have warned that North Korea’s latest test is a boon to Iran’s own nuclear program.

“The international response, led by the U.S., to the North Korean regime’s provocations, sheds light on how it will behave toward the Iranian regime on their nuclear efforts in the near future,” Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israeli defense minister, tweeted. “Although the nuclear test is not our issue, the tension should concern us.”

Iran and North Korea have been sharing nuclear materials and know-how for well over a decade, according to sensitive intelligence community communications published by WikiLeaks and dating as far back as 2009. The Obama administration took little action during its time in office to thwart this growing alliance, leading to increased nuclear ties between Iran and North Korea, multiple sources said.

Iranian officials and scientists have been spotted at several of North Korea’s key nuclear test, fueling speculation that the two countries are in close contact on the issue.

“What is almost certain, however, is the following: both in the post- and pre-JCPOA [or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the Iran deal] era, the two closely watched how each one negotiated with the international community, what deals it struck, the lies that worked and didn’t work, and where and how it could supplement resolve for material capability,” Ben Taleblu said.