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Israel Once Tried To Turn North Korea Into A Friend

More than two decades ago, as Israel sought peace with Palestinians and Arab states, it also sought to thaw its relationship with North Korea — an effort that diplomats claim might have succeeded had the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, not intervened.

According to the Times of Israel, five Israeli diplomats traveled to Pyongyang in 1992 in a bid to convince the North Koreans to stop sharing nuclear technology and know-how with Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East. They saw possible business and economic development deals between the two countries as a way to sweeten the arrangement for the totalitarian regime.

“We were flown around by the helicopter of the leader [Kim Il-sung] and met with his deputy. We were accompanied by a high-ranking general from the North Korean army all throughout our visit, and they entertained us with a huge spectacle,” recalled Eytan Bentsur, then the deputy director general of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry.

But Bentsur and his colleagues said that their outreach was scuttled by the Mossad’s machinations, allegedly on the orders of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who may himself have been pressured by the United States.

Those diplomats think that stopping negotiations was a grave mistake. “At that particular moment in time it was possible to change an aggressive and dangerous regime into one that focused on developing its own economy,” Bentsur told the Times of Israel. “There’s no doubt that it would have been a different North Korea.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter, @DanielJSolomon

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Israel Once Tried To Turn North Korea Into A Friend

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