Russia provided nuclear spying in N. Korea at request of CIA

Monitoring in '90s helped track weapons program

January 20, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Russian intelligence officers secretly placed sophisticated nuclear detection equipment inside North Korea at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1990s, to assist the United States in tracking the North Korean nuclear weapons program, intelligence officials said.

The Russians placed nuclear monitors provided by the CIA inside the Russian Embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to try to detect telltale signs of activity from the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

The CIA trained officers from the SVR, the Russian intelligence agency, in the operation of the American equipment, and the Russians then shared their findings with the Americans.

The joint operation has since ended, and it is unclear how long it lasted or whether it provided useful intelligence on the state of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Nor would officials say whether the Russians placed detection equipment in other locations in North Korea besides their embassy in Pyongyang.

But the disclosure of the clandestine operation against the North Koreans reveals a remarkable level of intelligence cooperation between Moscow and Washington on one of the most important security issues in the post-Cold War era - the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The decision by the CIA to turn to the Russians for help also demonstrates how the United States has been forced to rely on assistance from other nations to collect information from inside North Korea, one of the most closed societies in the world.

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