The Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment officially. But a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity “to avoid offending” Khan’s supporters, said the letter “is clearly a fabrication. It is not on any official letterhead and bears no seal. . . . The reference to alleged payment and gifts to senior Pakistani military officers is ludicrous.”
There is, however, a Pakistani-Western divide on the letter, which was provided to The Post by former British journalist Simon Henderson, who The Post verified had obtained it from Khan. A U.S. intelligence official who tracks nuclear proliferation issues said it contains accurate details of sensitive matters known only to a handful of people in Pakistan, North Korea and the United States.
A senior U.S. official said separately that government experts concluded after examining a copy of the letter that the signature appears authentic and that the substance is “consistent with our knowledge” now of the same events. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the allegation.
Olli Heinonen, a 27-year veteran of the International Atomic Energy Agency who led its investigation of Khan before moving to Harvard’s Kennedy School last year, said the letter is similar to other North Korean notes that he had seen or received. They typically lacked a letterhead, he said; moreover, he said he has previously heard similar accounts — originating from senior Pakistanis — of clandestine payments by North Korea to Pakistani military officials and government advisers.
The substance of the letter, Heinonen said, “makes a lot of sense,” given what is now known about the North Korean program.
Jon, now 84, the North Korean official whose signature appears on the letter, has long been a powerful member of North Korea’s national defense commission, in charge of military procurement. In August, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on his department for its ballistic missile work.
According to Khan, in the 1990s, Jon met then-Pakistani President Farooq Leghari, toured the country’s nuclear laboratory and arranged for dozens of North Korean technicians to work there. Khan detailed the payments Jon allegedly arranged in written statements that Henderson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, shared with The Post. Henderson said he acquired the letter and the statements from Khan in the years after his 2004 arrest by Pakistani authorities.