The Rev. Mr. Moon and North Korean WMD

It seems to be the case that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church bought Russian missile submarines for North Korea, which has now enabled North Korea to delelop its own intermediate range ballistic missile capacity. If those missiles were mounted on submarines (which North Korea doesn’t yet have) or even on freighters, they would put the entire West Coast under the threat of nuclear attack, once the North Koreans finish building their warheads. The Washington Times helped by relaying false assurances that the Russian submarines were being sold only for scrap. If this is true, how much longer can we tolerate Mr. Moon’s political and media power? And if we can’t, what are we going to do about it?

Is this a hoax? Or is it true that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church give North Korea the Russian missile submarines from which they have now successfully copied intermediate range ballistic missile launchers?

If it’s not a hoax, why isn’t it front-page news?

Given the new Messiah’s power in American media and politics, I would have thought that his helping to give one of the Axis of Evil the potential capacity to deliver nuclear weapons against U.S. cities would have been worth a certain amount of attention.

[The New York Times reports, in Thursday’s paper, that U.S. officials acknowledge that the North Koreans have developed the launchers, but are “unworried” because the North Koreans don’t (yet) have submarines to put them on, and the officials “expressed doubts” (without giving reasons) that it would occur to the North Koreans to mount the launchers on freighters and thus gain the capability of attacking the U.S. mainland. No mention of Mr. Moon’s role in the transaction.]

Again, I don’t know how much of this to believe. That North Korea now has ballistic missile launchers based on designs from Russian subs acquired during the 1990s seems solidly established, unless Reuters is grossly misquoting Jane’s Defense Weekly or someone sold Jane’s a bill of goods and Jane’s managed to fool the NY Times and the U.S. government.

So the open question (open for me: someone else may know the answer, and if so I’d love to hear about it, either way) is whether the Rev. Mr. Moon actually bought the Russian subs for the Beloved Leader.

John Gorenfeld links to these authentic-looking declassified DIA documents, which he credits to a FOIA request by Robert Parry. The smoking-gun sentences occur at the end of p. 2 and the beginning of p. 3 of Document 2:

In Jan94, a Japanese trading company “Touen Imoji” in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo, purchased 12 F and G class submaries from the Russian Pacific Fleet Headquarters. These submarines wer then sold to a KN [= North Korean] trading company. Although this transaction garnered a great deal of coverage in the Japanese press, it was not disclosed at the time that Touen Shoji is an affiliate of the Unification Church.

I don’t know Gorenfeld’s work or Parry’s (that’s no reflection on them, of course; I don’t follow investigative journalism closely enough to know the players); Atrios links to the item as if it were the truth, and so does Nick Confessore at Tapped, but neither explicitly says that Gorenfield and Parry are to be relied on. If they are, this looks to me like a huge story.

I can understand why the daily press finds it a little bit hard to cover: the sale of the subs is ten-year-old news (note Gorenfeld’s quotation from a contemporary Washington Times story pooh-poohing the theat). Jane’s creates a current news hook by reporting that the fear at the time — that North Korea would be able to reverse-engineer the missle launchers — has proven to be real.

But to get the full story you need to take the step Gorenfeld takes: showing that the Rev. Mr. Moon — friend of (Republican) Presidents, honored as the Messiah at a Capitol Hill shindig sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, owner of the semi-official Republican organ in the capital — was engaged in arming what may well be the most dangerous regime on Earth with delivery capacity for weaons of mass destruction.

The apparent complicity of the Washington Times with the plot raises some very difficult legal and Constitutional questions. Does the First Amendment make it impossible to prevent by law a hostile foreign power from wielding the political influence that comes with owning a major newspaper in the nation’s capital? Perhaps it does. (Though the Foreign Agents Registration Act may criminalize some of these shenaningans.)

But nothing in the Constitution prevents patriots from refusing to (1) work for the Washington Times; (2) advertise in the Washington Times; (3) buy the Washington Times; (4) give press credentials to reporters for the Washington Times; or (5) give interviews, and especially leaks, to the Washington Times.

If this story proves to be false, I will quickly and loudly retract it. But it it does not prove to be false, it demands action. Mr. Moon, and his newspaper, must become and remain pariahs.

(And, in my view, now that the North Koreans have missile launchers, any further effort on their part to develop warheads demands a pre-emptive attack.

One of the many, many bad results of the foolishness about WMDs in the run-up to the Iraq War, and the quagmire the occupation has developed into, is that it has greatly weakened the hand of the US against Iran and North Korea. But no matter how much the South Koreans fear the results, from a U.S. viewpoint there is no objective in that part of the world nearly as important as making sure that Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego don’t glow in the dark.

But that’s a longer story, to be told by those who are professionals rather than amateurs: i.e., not by the proprietor of this space.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “The Rev. Mr. Moon and North Korean WMD”

  1. More on the Unification Connection

    Mark Kleiman weighs in with some comments on how big this story is if true, and how despite having our hands tied in Iraq something would need to be done about it. I can understand why the daily press finds

  2. Overheard in the Halls of Power

    "New rule, starting today. If someone you know sells a weapon to a rogue notion that then reverse engineers the weapon in order to develop even more powerful devices to which they can affix WMD—say, for shits-and-giggles, Rev. Sun Myung…

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