New York/Bengaluru: India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday sought a probe into North Korea's nuclear proliferation linkages and demanded that those responsible for it should be held accountable, in a veiled reference to Pakistan and the former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's state visit to North Korea in 1993, when she smuggled in critical data on uranium enrichment -- a route to making a nuclear weapon -- to help facilitate a missile deal with Pyongyang.
Ms Swaraj's remarks came after North Korea fired another mid-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday. It follows North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 which was in direct defiance of United Nations sanctions and other international pressure.
"External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj deplored North Korea's recent actions and stated that its proliferation linkages must be explored and those involved must be held accountable," the ministry's spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters at a news conference at the United Nations in New York.
Swaraj's remarks came as she met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono yesterday on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly session here.
Pyongyang had clandestinely received nuclear enrichment technology from Pakistan when A Q Khan was at the helm of Islamabad's nuclear programme. Pakistan refused to hand over A.Q.Khan for questioning to U.S. authorities in 2006, with President Pervez Musharraf granting him clemency which kept him out of the U.S.' clutches.
Was EAM talking of BB trip to Pyongyang in 1993?
A nuclear smuggling ring run by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was suspected as the source of nuclear expertise for China's other ally, North Korea.
In 1993, Pakistan was in desperate need of new missile technology that would counter India's rising power. Then Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto told journalist Shyam Bhatia years later that she was asked to carry "critical nuclear data" to hand over to Pyongyang as part of a barter deal.
"Before leaving Islamabad she shopped for an overcoat with the 'deepest possible pockets' into which she transferred CDs containing the scientific data about uranium enrichment that the North Koreans wanted," Bhatia writes.
"She implied with a glint in her eye that she had acted as a two-way courier, bringing North Korea's missile information on CDs back with her on the return journey."
The CDs probably contained blueprints of the more than 100 centrifuge components as well as general assembly drawings. In 2002, with North Korean shopping for suspect parts in the nuclear market, the Bush administration accused Pyongyang of having a clandestine program to produce highly enriched uranium. Highly enriched uranium, a fuel for nuclear weapons, is produced by cascades of centrifuges that spin hot uranium gas.
That charge is reported to have sunk a Clinton-era deal that had frozen North Korea's plutonium-based reactor.