General Pervez Musharraf has thus revealed for the first time what nuclear technology was transferred to the communist nation.
He said in an interview with Kyodo News released on Wednesday that Abdul Qadeer Khan “passed centrifuges – parts and complete. I do not exactly remember the number”.
Musharraf’s spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan said the Pakistani leader had confirmed that Khan provided centrifuges for enriching uranium and their designs to North Korea in an interview on Tuesday, but added that the technology was only a small part of what would be need to develop a nuclear bomb.
Khan, regarded as the father of the programme that built Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, confessed in early 2004 that he had spread sensitive technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea without the knowledge of the government.
Under house arrest
Khan, who is accused of operating an international black market network in weapons technology, was subsequently pardoned by Musharraf but is still kept under house arrest in Islamabad.
The Pakistani government has since given only scant details about the transfers that Khan made, particularly to Pyongyang’s secretive communist regime.
Musharraf: Dr AQ Khan’s part is
Musharraf told Kyodo that while the scientist’s laboratory engaged in uranium enrichment, it was not involved in other key steps needed to make a nuclear bomb, such as conversion of uranium into gas and development of the trigger mechanism and delivery systems.
“So if North Korea has made a bomb … Dr AQ Khan’s part is only enriching the uranium to weapons grade. He does not know about making the bomb,” he said.
If the North Koreans have acquired such bomb-making capabilities, the North Koreans “must have got it themselves or somewhere else – not from Pakistan”, he said.
Kyodo said the Pakistani leader rejected media reports that Khan had bartered uranium enrichment secrets for North Korean help in developing Pakistan’s medium-range Ghauri missile, which is believed to be an improved version
of North Korea’s Rodong missile.
He said Pakistan had cooperated with North Korea in the production of conventional weapons when it developed the shoulder-fired Anza missile and received artillery equipment.
But Pakistan has since severed its defence cooperation with North Korea in the production of conventional weapons, Musharraf said.