Now this is fascinating. Jeffrey Lewis discusses a startling claim by AQ Khan:
Simon Henderson and I disagreed on an issue related to the broader question of whether North Korean officials really showed AQ Khan three nuclear weapons. I said North Korea didn’t have enough fissile material, while Henderson referred me to one of his articles stating that North Korea “is already sitting on a stockpile of highly enriched uranium courtesy of Stalin, the Soviet leader.”
I didn’t find that statement credible and asked about its provenance. “Is this yet another of Khan’s assertions in these documents?” I wrote. “If so, this further undermines his credibility and demonstrates the need to place these documents in the public record to allow others to examine their contents.”
So, now we have the actual sentence from Khan’s statement: North Korea “had also manufactured a few weapons as, according to Gen. Kang’s boss, they had received Kg 200 plutonium and weapon designs from the Russians in the mid-fifties after the Korean War.”
Lewis has some exceedingly compelling reasons why we shouldn’t take this claim seriously. There’s no evidence of the transfer in the Soviet archives, it would have represented a huge Soviet investment, etc. Lewis theorizes that Khan is trying to absolve himself of responsibility for helping North Korea develop a weapon, which seems entirely reasonable to me. Nevertheless, an interesting read.