North Korea’s missile launch lately has been in the news. But North Korea’s missile indulgence has a “rich” past. A lot of it was encouraged by a certain masochist mindset on part of the US itself. Let’s go back to 1971 – just 10 weeks before the India-Pakistan war.
Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto signed an agreement with North Korea on September 18, 1971 just two and a half months before the outbreak of war with India to get conventional weapons from North Korea. At that time, Pakistan had no consular relations. For US Dollars (which Pakistan ostensibly got in US aid), Pakistan received Rocket Launchers and other ammunition under this September agreement.
Over the years, Pakistan helped Pyongyang (as an intermediary) to supply arms to Iran and Libya. In fact during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980s, Iran’s principal supplier was North Korea. The arms would arrive in Karachi by sea and then sent by road via Balochistan to Iran on trucks. Over 100 Scud-B (known as the Hwasong 5 in North Korea) ballistic missiles and equipment for assembly were sent over.
Both North Korea and Pakistan have been basket economies but Pakistan had the advantage of US money in 1980s. So, Pakistan paid for North Korean arms from the West, for missiles.
Pakistan has received missiles from China and North Korea over the years. From 2001 onwards, Pakistan started receiving the missiles from China and North Korean No-dong missiles via China through the Karakoram Highway. Its not that the US officials were not aware of all this. They were. In fact Washington Times mentioned (leak from US Intelligence) about the transfers that were happening from and via China to Pakistan:
Citing “intelligence officials,” an August 6 Washington Times report then claimed China had supplied missile components for Pakistan’s 750-kilometer Shaheen-1 and 2,000-kilometer Shaheen-2 ballistic missiles. The paper said 12 transfers of missile technology had taken place between the two countries since the beginning of 2001.
In April, 1998 Pakistan had tested a ballistic missile – which it called Ghauri. Basically, as the Indians have been saying that Ghauri missiles were really No-dong missiles painted green. As this panel discussed on CNN recently:
They take the No-dong missile from North Korea, they paint it with Pakistani colors and they call it the Ghauri. You paint it with Iranian colors and you call it a Shahab.
On August 6, 2001 during the Press Briefing however, the then State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher was asked about the Missile transfer from China to Pakistan. The question was very specific, but Boucher was not. Although he did betray the background of the transfers. The Nuclear and Missile Proliferation from China and Pakistan has been well documented – State Department’s denial notwithstanding. 
Q: The Secretary just came back from China and Ms. Christina Rocca was in Pakistan. One, on her visit — if you have anything — to South Asia. She skipped Bangladesh. But also, at the same time, China is still selling missiles and other military equipment to Pakistan. And the same question I asked you last year, then again earlier this year, and again today. And the CIA is saying the same thing, that they had been selling the weapons and missile technology to Pakistan and you said that “we are watching.” Now, what are you doing now? Don’t you think it’s time to punish China and Pakistan because of violation of the US agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let’s try to dissect all this. On Assistant Secretary Rocca’s visit, I’m afraid I don’t have anything new for you. She made a number of stops in the region. Obviously, it is not possible to go everywhere on every trip. We have been working, we think, positively in Bangladesh and will continue to do that.
On the issue of Chinese transfers of missiles, I am not in a position — because of the kind of information we have — I am not in a position to tell you about any specific transfers or any specific countries or any specific companies. What I can tell you is that we have been watching very closely the issue of Chinese missile transfers. We reached agreement with the Chinese in November of 2000 that they would not assist any country in any way with missiles and missile technology development. We expect the Chinese to abide by that agreement. We intend to do our part of that agreement if we know that the Chinese are doing their part. (A blatant lie!!)
And so we have had a number of discussions with the Chinese over time about specific transactions, about the kind of “mixed results” — was the phrase the Secretary used — in terms of that agreement, and we will continue to do that. When the Secretary was in Beijing, we announced that we would be holding experts’ talks with the Chinese on the topic of missile transfers and proliferation in general, and we will be doing that. We have not set a date yet, but we expect to do that in the near future.
Meanwhile there were enough “Think tanks” (whose “thinking” had basically tanked!), who were busy preparing “Myths vs Reality” reports:
But the North finds itself stalled in making any significant breakthroughs. The program is chiefly hampered, not by U.S. pressure, but by the unwillingness of the Chinese and Russian governments to significantly advance Pyongyang’s knowledge. Both Beijing and Moscow are withholding valuable technology. Contrary to Central Intelligence Agency projections, the North is not gaining significant Chinese or Russian technology.
Of course, right now, US and the entire west is “surprised”! Well, for a set of jokers who had KNOWN in August of 2001 – a FULL one month before the 9-11 – that missiles were coming via road on trucks from China and North Korea to Pakistan – tracked by US satellites, this is indeed incredulous.
What is the most surprising is the complete ABSENCE of any discussion about the transfer of Missile technology from China to North Korea. Every one is mum on that. China has sold technology to Pakistan, Iran, Syria … so why would it not have done some simple hand-holding for North Korea? I finally came across a statement that was kind of like the “red herring”. 
In another case where trade activities were obfuscated, a North Korean company based in China allegedly sold Egypt specialty steel used in the making of missiles.
So, if the North Korean company based in China was transferring the missile material to Egypt, is it too tough to imagine that it would have not done the same to its own country? Specially, in a Communist dispensation its an extension of the Government arm!!
So you see the triad? China (the main force), North Korea (with the first design of Missiles from China) and Pakistan (with Nuclear technology stolen from Holland, Germany and bought from China). The real fountainhead is China. It had three main powers to deal with – Regionally, India and historic enemy, Japan… and Globally, the US. So, it creates two “slave states” – North Korea and Pakistan. WIthout fighting any war itself, the job of containing its rivals has been easily accomplished!
One verity of fighting wars “Never fight your own wars, enlist other states to do the fighting and suffer”. That is China’s war credo.
1. A warning shot for Islamabad
2. The Pakistan-North Korea nexus
3. North Korea’s Missile Program: Reality Versus the Myth
4. Transcript: State Department Noon Briefing, August 6, 2001
5. Washington to Sanction China, Pakistan for Missile Cooperation
6. CNN NEWSROOM
7. China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues
8. China’s Missile Exports and Assistance to the Middle East