Russia faces criticism following a report it secretly offered to sell North Korea technology to protect its nuclear stockpiles and safeguard weapons secrets.
The Sunday Telegraph of London says Russian officials privately touted the technology in Pyongyang as recently as two weeks ago — just days before the communist state caused an international alarm by launching short- and long-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.
Aleksei Grigoriev, deputy director of Russia’s Federal Information Technologies Agency, said privately North Korea planned to buy equipment for the safe storage and transportation of nuclear materials, the Telegraph said.
He also said — evidently unaware that an Itar-Tass news agency reporter was taking notes for publication — that Moscow wanted to discuss “future cooperation” with Pyongyang, the newspaper reported.
Grigoriev quickly retracted his comments after Itar-Tass made them public.
Word of the alleged secret dealings presents a potential obstacle to the Bush administration’s plans to share civilian nuclear technology with Moscow in a deal worth billions of dollars.
The White House had no immediate comment.