A new book by a former North Korean diplomat claims that the dictatorial regime attempted to extort Israel by seeking to end North Korean missile sales to Iran and Syria in exchange for $1 billion in cash from Israel back in 1999.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, North Korea’s ambassador to Sweden made the offer to his Israeli counterpart in a Stockholm cafe at a meeting in which Thae Yong Ho, the former diplomat named in the article, served as interpreter.
Israel reportedly rejected the deal, instead offering North Korea food aid.
North Korea has been providing weapons, nuclear technology and ballistic missiles to Iran and Syria ever since, having initiated the sales since the early 1980s.
The instance is being called an example of a policy of blackmail North Korea has used against its enemies in order to obtain cash to fund its military programs.
Gideon Ben-Ami, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden at the time, told Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation that he and then-North Korean ambassador Son Mu Sin had several covert meetings between 1999 and 2002.
Thae defected to South Korea in 2016.
The paper also cited an expert who noted the similarities between Iranian and North Korean missiles, as well as the almost identical designs of the Syrian nuclear facility that Israel destroyed in September 2007, and the Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Korea.
Syria was reportedly just weeks away from producing radioactive materials when Israel performed the strike. Ten North Korean scientists were reportedly killed by the mission.