The architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program — who illegally passed the technology along to Iran, Syria and North Korea — said Pyongyang could "no doubt" have perfected a nuclear weapon and long-range missile warheads.
"North Korea has been a very close friend of the Soviet Union and China for the last 60 years," Abdul Qadeer Khan told al-Jazeera English TV. "They have got all their engineers and scientists trained in China and the Soviet Union in this field [nuclear weapons engineering] also. So no doubt they are quite capable and they can do it.
"They can even build an ICBM [Inter-Contentinental Ballistic Missile] if they want to," he added.
Revered in Pakistan as the "father" of the Islamic bomb, Mr. Khan is considered a pariah in the West because of his role in establishing an underground international trading network that fed an illegal market in nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile technologies.
Mr. Khan, who was pardoned by then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf after confessing his role in the network, rarely speaks to the international media. Al-Jazeera interviewed him in his role as the leader of the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Pakistan, a political party taking part in the national parliamentary elections this weekend.
Mr. Khan denied proliferating missile technology to North Korea, saying "If I had that knowledge, Pakistan would have been the first" of the two countries to demonstrate an advanced missile capability.
"We are a novice in this [missile-technology] field," he said, noting that Islamabad has not been able to launch a satellite into orbit as the North Koreans did last year — a move many saw as a surreptitious way to test multistage, intercontinental missile technology.
"This is all humbug," Mr. Khan said of the missile-proliferation allegations. "The North has a crude system, not as sophisticated as the western countries have.
"But sometimes a crude system will also work. It is good enough to frighten other people," he said.
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