ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 7 (UPI) -- Pakistani military officials got bribes from North Korea for access to sensitive nuclear technology, A.Q. Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear industry, claims.
In documents obtained by The Washington Post, Khan claims the Communist government resorted to bribes in the late 1990s, and that he transferred over $3 million of North Korean money to senior Pakistani military officers, the Post reported. These military officers later allowed Khan to share technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists, the report said.
One of the documents released by Khan is a copy of a letter in English he says was written to him by a North Korean official in 1998 giving details of the bribery arrangement.
The Post quoted some Western intelligence officials and other experts as saying they think the letter is authentic, which would confirm their long-held suspicion. The Post said it could not independently verify Khan's assertions and the letter.
Pakistanis, including those named as receiving the bribes, however, described the letter a fake.
Khan is widely hailed by Pakistanis as a national hero but many Pakistani officials maintain he acted alone in selling nuclear secrets. U.S. officials have held suspicions for years about the involvement of elements within the Pakistani military in illicit nuclear proliferation, the Post said.
The issue assumes significance as terrorist groups and other countries seek to acquire an atomic bomb or the know-how to build one. U.S. officials have not been able to investigate any corruption, partly because the Pakistani government will not allow them to contact Khan.
North Korea currently is involved in uranium-enrichment, which Western experts suspect is to supplement it existing plutonium weapons. The Post said the North Korean government did not respond to requests for comment about the Khan letter.
Khan has been accused of nuclear exports also to Libya and Iran and profiting from such sales.