North Korea may be isolated from most of the world, but unfortunately, it has a few equally dangerous kindred spirits. One reason that North Korea even has a missile program is due to the fact that two years ago, the U.S. released billions of dollars to North Korea’s main missile test partner, Iran, with the signing of a misguided nuclear deal. North Korea’s missile program and technology are identical to that of Iran, and inaction on one sends a powerful signal to the other that is can act with impunity.
Iran, according to the Congressional Research Service, has provided “significant and meaningful” assistance to North Korea’s ballistic missile program. For instance, in May 2017, Iran conducted a failed cruise missile test launch from a Ghadir-class “midget” submarine in the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian submarine’s design closely mirrored that of North Korea’s Yono-class, prompting speculation that the Tehran-Pyongyang military collaboration remains vibrant. The diesel-electric Yono/Ghadir-class submarines are virtually undetectable and were used by North Korea to sink a South Korean ship in 2010.
Most alarming, Iran carried out test-launches of a ballistic missile that has a range just under 2,500 miles in July 2016 and January 2017, thus bringing Europe into Iran’s ballistic missile range. Experts believe North Korea sold this particular missile, a variant of the BM-25, to Iran.
U.S. lawmakers wisely seized an opportunity to blunt the complementary ambitions of Iran and North Korea. The bipartisan Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 2, increased a president’s ability to impose sanctions on countries found to have violated U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea. The legislation also expanded the list of activities that would trigger sanctions against a country partnering with North Korea on possible weapons development.