TOKYO - Iran has stationed defense staff in North Korea since late October apparently to strengthen cooperation in missile and nuclear development, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported on Sunday, citing a Western diplomatic source.
The report came as North Korea said on Saturday it would carry out its second rocket launch of 2012 between December 10 and December 22, near the first anniversary of the death of young leader Kim Jong-un's father.
The Iranian mission, Kyodo said, is made up of four experts from Iran's Ministry of Defense and firms close to it. Citing the source, it said they were staying at a military facility 85 km (53 miles) from the North Korean border with China.
The two countries signed an agreement to cooperate in science and technology earlier this year.
North Korea has been selling long-range missiles to the Islamic Republic for many years. Iran’s long-range projectile, the Shahab 3, which is able to strike targets in Israel, is based on North Korea’s ballistic Nodong-1 missile.
Iran is also believed to have received a number of North Korean BM-25 missiles from North Korea that can hit cities in Western Europe and Russia, according to reports.
Both the Shahab and the BM-25 are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Last year, a Reuters report said the missile purchases were continuing.
“Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air,” the report said.
North Korea has had close ties with Iran. Leaked US diplomatic cables from 2010 showed that US officials believe Iran has acquired ballistic missile parts from North Korea.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.