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Crazy: North Korea Once Tried To Extort $1 Billion From Israel

Michael Peck

Key point: Israel remains concerned about missile proliferation in the Middle East.

In 1999, North Korea tried to blackmail Israel: give us a billion dollars, it said, or we will sell ballistic missiles to your enemies.

But the Israelis turned them down.

That’s the claim made in a new book by a senior North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea in 2016. Thae Yong-ho’s book, “Cryptography From the Third-Floor Secretariat,” drew attention with its juicy revelations about Kim Jong-un’s family, including corruption and the obsession of the North Korean leader’s brother with rock star Eric Clapton.

But just as startling was the revelation that North Korea tried to offer Israel that it thought Jerusalem couldn’t refuse. Kongdan Oh, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, cited excerpts from Thae’s Korean-language book at a recent conference on North Korea and the Middle East.

That wrote that in 1999, when he was stationed at the North Korean embassy in Stockholm, he was asked by Pyongyang to arrange a meeting between the North Korean ambassador to Sweden Son Mu Sin and Israeli ambassador Gideon Ben Ami. Thae would serve as interpreter for the discussions, which were conducted in English.

Son told his Israeli counterpart that North Korea had just successfully tested a “satellite,” which was a euphemism for a ballistic missile. And more ominously, that Iran and other Middle Eastern nations had expressed “strong interest in procuring our technology.”

Son then told Ben Ami that “our economy is in bad shape. We need some real cash and foreign currency. When we export this technology, or even manufacturing of the missiles to the Middle East, can you, Israel, imagine yourself surrounded by countries who hate you? The Middle East is a hot place. It will be a hotter place.”

Son then laid down the terms of the deal: $1 billion cash or else.

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