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Why Iranian engineers attended North Korea's failed rocket launch

Iranian rocket specialists were at the launch of North Korea's failed rocket test last week, according to South Korean reports. North Korea and Iran have long cooperated on long-range missiles.

A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang, April 8. Iranian rocket engineers attended the launch of North Korea's failed rocket test last week, according to South Korean reports.

Bobby Yip/Reuters

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A dozen representatives of the company that manufactures Iran’s missiles and satellites had ringside seats at North Korea's failed rocket launch last week, according to South Korean media. Analysts see their presence as the latest evidence of the relationship between Iran and North Korea’s cooperation on missile and nuclear programs.

“North Korea and Iran are in close cooperation about long-range missiles,” says Baek Seung-joo, senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. “There is the high possibility they sell nuclear technology to each other. At least their people exchange information.”

The relationship between officials and scientists in Tehran and Pyongyang – opposite poles of what then-President George W. Bush labeled an “axis of evil” – dates back to the 1990s, when both countries were getting deeply involved in developing nuclear technology along with the missiles capable of carrying warheads to distant targets.

The differences in programs

The programs between the two countries diverge but share common goals that are essentially hostile toward the United States and its most important regional allies, Israel, South Korea, and Japan.


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