- North Korea is believed to be obtaining uranium for its
secret nuclear weapons programme in return for providing military training
to the Congo.
- Preparing for war: President Kabila is said to be building
up his military capability
- For several months North Korea has been supplying troops
and training Congolese soldiers engaged in one of Africa's bloodiest civil
wars. US and South African intelligence sources fear that Laurent Kabila,
the cash-strapped President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, may have
given North Korea access to the country's largest uranium mine as payment.
- The director of a British mining company in the Congo
told The Telegraph that his workers had seen North Korean soldiers in Shinkolobwe,
a mining town 100 miles north of the capital, which provided uranium for
the Hiroshima bomb.
- Richard Cornwall, from the South African Institute for
Security Studies, said: "We know that there have been North Koreans
in that area and they are definitely training government forces, but whether
they are soldiers or miners we do not know and we can only speculate what
they are getting in exchange."
- The reports have strengthened suspicions that Pyongyang
has been seeking new sources of uranium for its nuclear programme, which
was supposed to have been shelved in 1994 after the signing of a non-proliferation
agreement with the United States.
- A Congressional report released in November warned that
North Korea had improved its nuclear capabilities in the past five years
and now had the missile capability to strike the United States. "It
is clear that North Korea can deliver a weapon of mass destruction not
just to Seoul, but also to Seattle," it said.
- The report cited "significant evidence that undeclared
nuclear weapons development activity continues, including efforts to acquire
uranium and uranium-enrichment technologies".
- According to US intelligence officials, one of these
sources may be the mineral-rich Congo. Shinkolobwe uranium is very high-grade.
However mining experts point out that the Shinkolobwe mine has not been
in use for some years and is thought to have suffered severe flooding,
which would take some time to remove.
- That one of the world's leading pariah states should
have entered into a deal with one of the most unstable countries in Africa
is ringing alarm bells not only in Washington. The last time North Korean
soldiers were in Africa was to train Zimbabwe's notorious Fifth Brigade,
which massacred thousands in Matabeleland in the 1980s.
- Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, who has committed
some 8,000 troops to propping up the Congolese government, apparently put
Kabila in touch with the North Koreans. Pyongyang's involvement has heightened
fears that the conflict in the Congo may spill over into neighbouring countries.
Kabila has been locked in civil war since August 1998, a year after overthrowing
the late dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko.
- He is supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, while
the rebels are backed by Uganda and Rwanda. A ceasefire signed in July
continues to be violated by both sides. A curfew was recently reintroduced
in Kinshasa, though seasonal rains mean heavy fighting is unlikely to get
under way again until March.
- Kinshasa's military build-up, including the purchase
of Scud missiles from Iran, is increasing suspicions that Kabila is planning
an attack on Rwanda. At a recent ceremony to inaugurate the training of
an army of 20,000 volunteers, he said: "You must have weapons because
you will quickly wipe away the enemies of the people."
- Mr Cornwall warned: "The North Korean presence is
a great worry given their history in the region and also because of fears
that they might infiltrate the Great Lakes region. Burundi is on a knife-edge
and anything could spark another genocide such as that of 1994, which could
then easily spread to Rwanda and southern Uganda."