Inside the Ring

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A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on development of the new order.

Pakistan nuclear network

New evidence surfaced this week on the covert nuclear supplier network headed by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, confirming that China supplied nuclear-weapons technology to Pakistan and that North Korea bought some for its nuclear program.

The details were contained in a handwritten 2007 letter from Mr. Khan, which was obtained by journalist Simon Henderson. In the letter, first reported by the London Sunday Times magazine, Mr. Khan makes clear he was acting on behalf of the Pakistani government and that he was not acting as a rogue agent in his proliferation activities.

The four-page letter was sent to Mr. Khan’s Dutch wife and dated Dec. 10, 2004. It was acquired by Mr. Henderson in 2007 and is the first primary-source document on the nuclear-supplier network that U.S. intelligence officials have said supplied nuclear weapons know-how to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

On China, Mr. Khan stated in the letter that “we put up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong, [China] … The Chinese gave us drawings of the nuclear weapon, gave us 50 kg of enriched uranium, gave us 10 tons of UF6 (natural) and 5 tons of UF6 (3 percent).” UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, a gas that is spun in centrifuges to make highly enriched uranium.

The comments help to explain how U.S. officials who took part in dismantling Libya’s nuclear program after 2003 discovered Chinese-language documents on how to design a nuclear warhead for a missile. The documents obtained in Libya remain classified and stored at a U.S. nuclear facility, according to officials at the State and Energy departments.

Asked about the report, Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said China has mechanisms designed to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. “Nuclear-related laws and regulations are particularly strict,” he said.

The new report “sounds ridiculous, and it’s not the first time that we read similar baseless stories,” Mr. Wang said.

The letter reveals that North Korea paid $3 million to Mr. Khan for nuclear technology. Mr. Khan stated that a retired Pakistani general “took $3 million, through me, from the N. Koreans, and [the general] asked me to give some drawings and machines” to the North Koreans.

Mr. Khan was placed under house arrest in Pakistan in February 2004 and was released recently.

Attempts to reach the Pakistani Embassy in Washington for comment were not successful. Neither were attempts to reach the spokesman at the Iranian and North Korean U.N. missions in New York.

Mr. Henderson said in an interview that the letter confirms the Chinese, North Korean and Iranian connections to the network.

However, more important is that it reveals “Khan wasn’t a rogue agent; he was doing things at the instruction and with the cooperation of successive governments,” he said.

Mr. Khan’s ties to Islamabad also were revealed in the increase in his government pension in 2007, Mr. Henderson said.

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About the Author

Bill Gertz INSIDE THE RING

Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...

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