Estimated maximum ranges for North Korean missiles

North Korea’s Geopolitical and Military Games in the Middle East

Pyongyang’s one and only focus on survival virtually ensures North Korean weapons will continue to be found in the hands of those bent on Israel’s destruction. But why?

I wanted to do some research about North Korea's influence in the Middle East. I don't know how exact can be the sources i've already found but if you would like to comment or add something , or if you don't agree please feel free to do it.

Pyongyang has fewer foreign embassies than many other capitals, but the DPRK’s showcase city is home to one that even Washington lacks: Palestine.

Since the early 1960s, North Korea has staunchly supported the establishment of a Palestinian state. From training Palestinian militants in the 1970s, to helping Hezbollah build underground tunnels into Israel in the mid-2000s, North Korea has maintained an active presence in the Middle East. North Korea’s war on Israel and the Jewish people has been going on for decades! From North Korean pilots flying combat missions against Israel, to a band of North Korean-trained terrorists spreading death at an Israeli airport, the North’s little-known role in Middle East terror will be revealed in this eye-opening lecture by Lawrence Peck.

“North Korea has a history of providing support to countries and groups with common enemies and especially those which are particularly leftist or revolutionary in their ideologies,” military analyst John Grisafi tells NK News. “Pyongyang has used such support to undermine the Western powers, strengthen alliances, and for the opportunity to fight against nations and groups supported by the West and using Western military tactics and equipment.”

Lawrence Peck, jewish,  lived in Korea for nearly 6 years and worked for Kim & Chang Law Offices, Samsung Group, Halla Group, SK Group, and Korean Air.  He was a guest lecturer at the graduate school of Hongik University in Seoul and can speak Korean at an intermediate level.

You can watch a video of Lawrence Peck speaking here on Youtube


In 1970, Kim Il Sung provided weapons and financial support to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP then recruited three Japanese Red Army members — as they would not attract the same attention as Arabs in an Israeli airport — to carry out an attack at Tel Aviv’s Lod Airport. The attack, which took place on May 30, 1972, killed 26 people, primarily Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico.

“It is now proven in Federal Court that the North Koreans supplied the Palestinians with both weapons and training prior to their attack,” Bruce Bechtol Jr., professor of political science at Angelo State University, tells NK News.

“It is now proven in Federal Court that the North Koreans supplied the Palestinians with both weapons and training prior to their attack”

The eight surviving children of Carmelo Calderon Molina sued the DPRK government in 2008 for their involvement in the Lod Airport massacre. Professor Bechtol served as the expert witness in the case. Predictably, the North Koreans have not paid the $378 million, as ordered by the U.S. Federal Court in 2010, to the families who lost loved ones in the attack.

After the Lod Airport massacre, North Korea continued to be a thorn in the side for the United States and Israel in the Middle East as they provided military training and support to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Khalil al-Wazir (also known as Abu Jihad), one of the three founders of the Palestinian political faction Fatah, received military training in the DPRK in 1963, according to North Korea military analyst Joseph Bermudez. Pyongyang gradually increased their support of the PLO as over 200 members received military training in three locations near Pyongyang from 1970-1972. Muhammad Da’ud Awda (also known as Abu Da’ud), one of the commanders of the attack upon the Israeli Olympic team during the 1972 Munich Olympics, received training in the DPRK during this period.

Yasser Arafat, the first president of the Palestinian National Authority and head of the PLO, was also a frequent visitor to Pyongyang, and visited Kim Il Sung six times. In 1993, Arafat awarded Kim Il Sung the “Star of Palestine.”

Public Domain Pic: Arafat & Kim II Sung

The Palestinian fight for self-determination may hit especially close to home for North Koreans, who view the Palestinians as, like them, trying to peacefully resolve their conflict.

On the Southern side of the Demilitarized Zone, North Korean-made tunnels into South Korea have become a tourist attraction. Thousands of miles away, Israeli armed forces saw firsthand North Korea’s expertise in underground facility construction during the 2006 war with Hezbollah. In the early 2000s, North Korean military specialists traveled to Lebanon and trained members of Hezbollah in building underground bunkers for food, medical supplies, and weapons storage. Paris Intelligence Online, a French internet publication which specializes in political and economic intelligence, said that this training “significantly improved Hezbollah’s ability to fight the Israelis.”

Families of dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who were killed or injured by Hezbollah attacks during the 2006 war also filed a lawsuit against the North Korean government. Like the 2010 Lod Airport massacre case in Federal Court, Pyongyang did not represent itself and no compensation has been paid out.

North Korea and Syria

North Korea and Syria have a lot in common: both built on an ideology fusing nationalism and socialism, both ruled by a hereditary despotism which ensures the rule of only one family.

When Kim Jong Un assumed power two years ago, foreign observers predicted North Korea would cut its losses short and disengage from Syria in the wake of the overthrow of friendly regimes in Algeria, Egypt and Libya. But this proved to be wishful thinking. On the contrary, Kim Jong Un got off the fence and has joined the Assad government to actively fight against the anti-government rebels in Syria, many of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Indeed, the DPRK says it is its duty to help a legitimate sovereign government in the fight against international terrorism in Syria.

Kim Jong family came to the rescue of the faltering Assad family, exporting its trademark anti-American “revolutionary spirit of the offensive,” for four reasons.

  • Fraternal assistance in several Middle Eastern wars: Since Israel joined the UN coalition troops fighting in the Korean War, the DPRK government has never considered it inappropriate or unwise to send troops to aid the Syrian government in the Arab-Israeli wars in the Middle East.
  • Military Education and Training: In the mid-1980s, Kim Jong Il approved the request of the Syrian government for its military officers’ to be educated and trained at DPRK military educational institutions at the expense of North Korea. Officers at the colonel rank usually participate in the one-year high-level officers’ course. Syrian officers at the captain rank are also admitted to the four-year course. They are taught military strategy, operational art, and military tactics, including guerrilla operations.
  • Foreign military sales: Beginning in the late 1970s through the 1980s, the DPRK supplied Syria with various conventional weapons such as rifles, guns, mortars, ammunition, bombs, armored vehicles, anti-tank missiles, radars, and even military uniforms.
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction and Delivery Systems: There is evidence to suggest that North Korea provided technical assistance to Syria in acquiring key nuclear-related technologies in China and Europe as well as in constructing a covert nuclear reactor at Al Kibar that was bombed by the Israeli Air Force in 2007.

Since the beginning of this year alone, Kim Jong Un has exchanged personal letters with Bashar Al-Assad on ten different occasions—more than with any other foreign leader, including Chinese. Many senior DPRK leaders have either visited Syria over the past two decades or worked closely with its government.

As a strategic partner of both Syria and Iran, North Korea may have been contracted by Iran to defend their mutual ally in Damascus. It is also plausible that there may be some DPRK-Syria-Russia connections in the area of military-technical cooperation, probably, in the development of Syrian air defense capabilities. Pyongyang takes full advantage of all-out Russian and Iranian support for Damascus “to defend the frontline of the joint anti-American and anti-imperialist struggle” on the Syrian battlefield without fear of being depicted as a pariah or having to pay diplomatic or political price for its actions.


North Korea has hostile relations with Israel, as the North Korean perceive Israel as an “imperialist satellite” of Washington.

The DPRK rejected Israeli overtures in the early 1990s seeking to establish diplomatic relations, despite Israeli promises to pay considerable compensation (up to USD 500 million) if Pyongyang were to abandon Syria and terminate its missile sales to the Middle East. Similarly, Syria rejected past ROK attempts to normalize relations, unlike the former Soviet Union and China, despite its growing trade and investment links with Seoul.Pyongyang and Damascus also support each other in the United Nations and other international organizations. For example, upon cues from Damascus, Pyongyang denounces US proposals for the Middle East peace process, Lebanon situation, Palestinian problem, and Arab-Israeli settlement. In turn, Syria supports the DPRK’s positions in various talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and inter-Korea reconciliation.

North Korean state media’s recent racist, misogynistic, and homophobic rhetoric provided further evidence that the DPRK does not abide by the same political correctness as the rest of the world. However, blatantly anti-Semitic remarks are noticeably absent in the Korean Central News Agency’s (KCNA) archives.

“I don’t remember ‘Zionists’ being a particular, regular target of any North Korean propaganda,” Michael Harrold, who spent seven years in Pyongyang polishing English language propaganda for the Kim family regime, told to NK News. “There were occasional negative references to ‘Zionists’ in relation to the Palestinian struggle, for example when a Palestinian delegation was visiting, given that North Korea firmly supported the Palestinian cause, or the Middle East was in some other way in the news.”

The little ink spent on “Zionists” in North Korean propaganda may have to do with Korea’s lack of historical contact with a sizable Jewish population.

“In Korean history, there was very little interaction with Jews,” Andrei Lankov, Professor of Korean Studies at Kookmin University, told :

“The North Korean view on the matter have been fueled by few sources: contacts with Western (and Russian) anti-Semitism and politically motivated support for the left-leaning and/or anti-American forces in the Middle East which were overwhelmingly hostile towards Jewish state and, frequently, Jews as such.  To simplify things a bit, for the North Koreans, Jews are a strange people living far away, with whom they have had little direct contact, but of whom they have occasionally heard some nasty things from friends and allies.”

While anti-Semitism is not a common trope in North Korean propaganda, caricatures of the “American imperialists” and “Japanese colonialists” are striking similar to Nazi Germany’s depiction of Jews.

“In North Korean children’s culture, as in North Korean arts in general, there is an unapologetic racialism in depictions of the enemy, American soldiers and Japanese imperialists reduced to the stalking monsters of revolutionary demonology,” Christopher Richardson, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney in North Korean culture, tells NK News.

According to Richardson, the hooked noses, unkempt facial hair, and bulging lips of the Japanese and American enemies, as depicted in North Korean propaganda, are in line with traditionally anti-Semitic visual tropes.

The Future

The future of Israel-North Korea relations looks dim. After North Korean weapons bound for Hezbollah and Hamas were seized in Bangkok in December 2009, Israel’s foreign minister said that North Korea joins Syria and Iran as part of a new axis of evil. So why does North Korea continue to meddle in the Middle East?

It comes down to money. North Korea’s dreams of fomenting an international proletarian revolution have long been over. Now, North Korea’s foreign policy emphasizes pragmatism rather than ideological fervor. Cash-strapped Pyongyang earns foreign currency by selling weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. The North Korean leadership’s sole focus on survival virtually ensures North Korean weapons will continue to be found in the hands of those bent on Israel’s destruction.