Dec 06, 2021

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On Monday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that in 1999, the North Korean government made an offer to the Israeli government: they would cancel their agreement to sell missile technology to Iran and other enemies of Israel in exchange for $1 billion cash.

According to the report, the negotiations took place at a cafe in Stockholm between the Iranian and Israeli ambassadors to Sweden. Israel counter-offered with an offer to supply North Korea with food shipments. The counteroffer was rejected and the negotiations ended.

The account of the meeting was written in the memoirs of Thae Yong Ho, the translator at the meeting and former senior North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea two years ago.

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden at the time, Gideon Ben-Ami, revealed in an interview on Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC) last week that he and then-North Korean ambassador Son Mu Sin did meet covertly many times, including three times in 1999.

Zvi Gabay, the former deputy director of the Asia Department in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told the IPBC, “We told them we wanted to aid them with agriculture and maybe with money, but only in return for them stopping the sale of weapons to Syria and Iran, or in return for establishing (diplomatic) ties with us.” He confirmed that North Korea rejected the offer but neither Gabay nor Ben-Ami mentioned North Korea’s initial cash demand.

The WSJ report cited declassified US State Department documents showing the US and North Korea were holding talks over North Korea’s missile sales around the same time Thae claims the North Korean and Israeli ambassadors met in Sweden.