Israel–North Korea relations

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Israel–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and North Korea


North Korea

Israeli-North Korean relations are very hostile.[1] North Korea does not recognise Israel, denouncing it as an "imperialist satellite".[2] Since 1988 it recognises the sovereignty of the State of Palestine over all of Israel, except for the disputed region of the Golan Heights, which it recognises as part of Syria. Israel considers North Korea and its nuclear missile program as a major threat to global security. It has called for international action on the issue. At times, Israel has been the subject of fiery threats from North Korean state media.


North Korea sent 20 pilots and 19 non-combat personnel to Egypt during the Yom Kippur War. The unit had four to six encounters with the Israelis from August through the end of the war. According to Shlomo Aloni, the last aerial engagement on the Egyptian front, which took place on 6 December, saw Israeli F-4s engage North Korean-piloted MiG-21s. The Israelis shot down one MiG, and another was shot down by friendly fire from Egyptian air defenses.[3]

Over the years, North Korea has supplied missile and weapons technology to Israel's neighbours, including Iran, Syria, Libya, and Egypt.[4][5][6] Syria, which has a history of confrontations with Israel, has long maintained a military relationship with North Korea based on the cooperation between their respective nuclear and chemical weapon programs. On 6 September 2007, the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrike "Operation Orchard" on a target in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. According to media reports, 10 North Koreans who "had been helping with the construction of a nuclear reactor in Syria" were killed during the airstrike.[7]

When North Korea opened up to foreign tourists in 1986 it excluded citizens of Israel along with those of the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and South Africa.[8] Since 2016, Israeli civilians have been permitted to travel to North Korea without intermediaries, with appropriate visas available in Israel.[9] Jewish people from other countries have experienced problems entering North Korea. American university student Otto Warmbier, who was detained by the North Koreans for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster, was Jewish. This was not known to the North Korean government which at one point issued a statement claiming they found out Warmbier was planning to sell the poster to someone at his Methodist church.[10]

Israel has called for world action against North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.[11] It has been suggested that North Korea has sought to model its nuclear weapons programme on Israel's, as "a small-state deterrent for a country surrounded by powerful enemies; to display enough activity to make possession of a nuclear device plausible to the outside world, but with no announcement of possession: in short, to appear to arm itself with an ultimate trump card and keep everyone guessing whether and when the weapons might become available."[12]

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Israel sent a diplomatic delegation to North Korea, but the efforts were stopped by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, possibly due to United States and Mossad pressure.[13]

In May 2010 the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, labeled North Korea as part of an "axis of evil"; he stated:

"This axis of evil that includes North Korea, Syria and Iran, it's the biggest threat to the entire world".[14]

In 2014 as the Israel–Gaza conflict escalated, North Korea allegedly negotiated arms deals with Hamas.[15] This was however denied by North Korean KCNA state television a few days later.[16]

It has reported that Israeli intelligence officials are concerned that in a worst-case scenario, the cash strapped internationally sanctioned country could sell its nuclear weapons or technology to Iran and its proxy militia Hezbollah. In a more likely scenario, Israel feels Iran will continue to abide by its nuclear deal but threaten the country with a conventional arms buildup on Israel's northern border. Because US and international attention will be focused on Pacific instability, Israel feels less western attention will be given to this issue.[17]

In a 2017 interview with Hebrew language news site Walla, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman called Kim Jong-Un a madman and said his nation is one of a few extremely bad actors who are attempting to undermine international stability. North Korean state media soon found out about the interview and issued a statement warning Israelis to watch their "wicked behavior". It went on to say Israel would get...

"Merciless, thousand-fold punishment" for insulting the "dignity of the Supreme Leadership"[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benjamin R. Young, How North Korea has been arming Palestinian militants for decades, NK News, 25 June 2014
  2. ^ Haggard, M (1965). "North Korea's International Position". Asian Survey. California, United States: University of California Press. 5 (8): 375–388. doi:10.2307/2642410. ISSN 0004-4687. OCLC 48536955.
  3. ^ "Israeli F-4s Actually Fought North Korean MiGs During the Yom Kippur War".
  4. ^ "North Korea Military Threat to Israel - Jewish Virtual Library".
  5. ^ Reuters (4 October 2016). "Israel: North Korea Supplying Weapons to Six Mideast States" – via Haaretz.
  6. ^ "Israel: North Korea shipping WMDs to Syria". 12 May 2010.
  7. ^ Tak Kumakura (28 April 2008). "North Koreans May Have Died in Israel Attack on Syria, NHK Says". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  8. ^ Koh, B (1988). "North Korea in 1987: Launching a New Seven-Year Plan". Asian Survey. California, United States: University of California Press. 28 (1): 62–70. doi:10.1525/as.1988.28.1.01p0121e. ISSN 0004-4687. OCLC 48536955.
  9. ^ Melnitcki, Gili (14 February 2017). "'There's one thing you shouldn't do' Israeli Who Visited North Korea Has a Tip for You" – via Haaretz.
  10. ^ "Otto Warmbier's family kept his Jewishness under wraps while North Korea held him hostage". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  11. ^ Ravid, Barak; Press, The Associated (25 May 2017). "Israel Demands World 'Respond Decisively' to North Korea Nuclear Test" – via Haaretz.
  12. ^ Cha, Victor (2002). "North Korea's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Badges, Shields, or Swords?". Political Science Quarterly. New York, United States: The Academy of Political Science. 117 (2): 209–230. doi:10.2307/798181. ISSN 0032-3195. OCLC 39064101.
  13. ^ Ahren, Raphael (10 August 2017). "The curious tale of Israel's short-lived courtship of North Korea". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  14. ^ Israel Minister: Iran, Syria, And North Korea Are New 'Axis Of Evil'
  15. ^ "Hamas and North Korea in secret arms deal". Daily Telegraph. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  16. ^ "North Korea denies reports of missile deal with Hamas". Daily Telegraph. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  17. ^ "The impact of the Korea crisis on Israel". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  18. ^ Sigel, Laura (29 April 2017). "North Korea threatens Israel with 'Merciless, Thousand-Fold Punishment'". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 29 August 2017.

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