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Dr. Bruce Bechtol discusses North Korean military proliferation in the Middle East and Africa

Dr. Bruce E. Bechtol Jr. held a book launch at The Institute of World Politics for his new book, North Korean Military Proliferation in the Middle East and Africa: Enabling Violence and Instability, on September 24th.

During his talk, Dr. Bechtol described how North Korea tends to proliferate weapons in the Middle East and Africa, both highly unstable regions. He argued that to understand the situation in Africa and the Middle East in a comprehensive way, one must first understand North Korea’s involvement in these regions.

North Korea’s proliferation networks smuggle small arms, tanks, mobile rocket launchers, fighter jets, small naval craft, and even short-range missiles. The potential proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons technology and transportation, including ballistic missiles and artillery, represent a broader threat than the leadership in Pyongyang.

His research indicated that the largest recipient of weapons from North Korea in the Middle East is Iran, which often modifies the weapons it receives; thus, this indicates a two-way partnership. In Africa, he found Egypt to be the largest recipient of North Korean weapons. In total, Dr. Bechtol found that North Korea funnels around 200 million dollars in weapons to the Middle East and hundreds of millions dollars in weapons to Africa.

Dr. Bechtol concluded that if the United States wants to eliminate the North Korean proliferation network, it must target the financial network that allows them to proliferate and profit from weapons. He recommended that, for instance, the State and Treasury Departments should be announcing démarches and other counter-threat finance initiatives “every week” to hinder North Korea’s weapons proliferation initiatives in the Middle East and Africa. 

Dr. Bechtol is an award-winning professor of political science at Angelo State University. He was formerly on the faculty at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Air Command and Staff College. He served as an adjunct visiting professor at the Korea University Graduate School of International Studies. Dr. Bechtol served for twenty years as an enlisted cryptologic linguist in the United Marine Corps, and then he served in the Defense Intelligence Agency as an intelligence officer, eventually becoming the J2 for Northeast Asia. He holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the Union Institute. North Korean Military Proliferation in the Middle East and Africa is his fifth book since 2007, and he began conducting research for it in 2014.

Bruce Bechtol September 2018