2003 April 19 Saturday
Nauru Helps 20 North Korean Nuclear Scientists Defect

Tiny Pacific island nation Nauru, population 12,329 has become a center of international intrigue and covert operations with its role in the smuggling of North Korean nuclear scientists to the United States and its allies.

A SWATH of North Korea's military and scientific elite, among them key nuclear specialists, has defected to the US and its allies through a highly secret smuggling operation involving the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

The father of North Korea's nuclear program is among those who escaped.

The defections started last October and were made possible with the help of 11 countries that agreed to provide consular protection to smuggle the targets from neighbouring China. Among those believed to be in a safe house in the West is the father of North Korea's nuclear programme, Kyong Won-ha.

Philip Gagner of Washington, D.C. law firm of Shaughnessy, Volzer & Gagner, P.C. played a key role in helping Nauru establish an embassy in Beijing to run this operation.

Operation Weasel began with an approach on Oct. 12 by U.S.-based lawyer Philip Gagner to Nauru's former president, Rene Harris, offering to foot the bill for establishing Nauruan embassies in Washington and Beijing.

"Operation Weasel" dates back at least to October 2002.

Nauru's former finance minister, Kinza Clodumar, was quoted as saying he was briefed on what was dubbed "Operation Weasel" while with a Nauruan delegation in Washington in October.

This puts a completely different twist on past events. Perhaps the plan to attack Kiribati was just a feint to draw attention away from the establishment of Nauru as a major covert operator.

Seriously though, this is quite a coup. North Korea's loss of these scientists is a loss to North Korean efforts to develop nuclear weapons and at the same time the scientists will provide valuable intelligence about the state of the nuclear program in North Korea as well as locations within North Korea where nuclear weapons development is under way.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 19 11:59 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control


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