Twenty of North Korea's best scientists, including nuclear specialists, have defected to the U.S. in a secret smuggling operation through the Pacific island of Nauru. The defections began in October when the scientists first traveled to China and then were able to hide inside the consulates of 11 countries for as long as a month. The head of North Korea's nuclear program, Kyong Won-ha, was helped by the Spanish consulate and is now in a safe house, where he's giving information on Korean nukes to the West.
Operation Weasel was operated by private citizens from South Korea and the U.S. and its allies, rather than by any government. This operation may be one reason North Korea has agreed to join talks with the U.S. and China next week. The last time the U.S. and North Korea talked was last October, when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said North Korea had admitted running a covert program to make nuclear weapons.
Washington lawyer Philip Gagner was the one who got Nauru involved in the operation. On October 12, he wrote to Nauru's then president, Rene Harris, "Some of the governments involved, including governments in the Pacific and the United States Government, would like to have the assistance of the Nauru Government in a diplomatic matter of very great sensitivity, (which) involves a country ? not Iraq ? which may have acquired weapons of primary concern to other governments and other countries in the region and the world."
Harris and his successor Bernard Dowiyogo were told that Nauruan missions would be opened in Washington and Beijing free of charge to Nauru. The cover would be that this was done to help Nauru's trade with the West, but Harris says the real reason "was to expedite the movement of these very important refugees."
Nauru's former finance minister Kinza Clodumar says, "We were going to get a (North Korean) nuclear scientist and his family from a farm in China and then take them in a Nauru consulate car to an embassy." The plan to use Nauru was organized by Americans and New Zealanders. Other countries believed to have taken part in Operation Weasel include Vanuatu, Thailand, The Philippines and Spain.
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