North Korea Sending Missile Technology to Iran?

Only weeks before dropping North Korea from an official U.S. blacklist of countries that support terrorism, the Bush administration apparently thwarted the transfer of missile parts (possibly including gyroscopes for guidance systems) from Pyongyang to Iran, U.S. officials tell NEWSWEEK. On Aug. 4, an Ilyushin aircraft operated by North Korea's state airline was granted routine permission by India to fly from Burma to Tehran via Indian airspace. Three days later, the office of India's prime minister "hurriedly" asked authorities to withdraw clearance, according to the Indian Express newspaper. Two U.S. officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, confirm the Bush administration asked India to block the flight.

The State Department formally dropped North Korea from its terror watch list in October, when Pyongyang agreed to disable nuclear-related facilities. But that process has moved slowly amid continuing reports of disarray in North Korea's secretive leadership. Officials in Japan and South Korea have publicly claimed that back in August the country's 66-year-old leader, Kim Jong Il, suffered a stroke. U.S. officials believe the most recent photos showing Kim at a soccer match indicate he is not near death.

When the "Dear Leader" finally does depart the scene, U.S. officials believe, he will most likely be succeeded by a collective of bureaucrats, military commanders and Communist Party functionaries, as well as at least a token member of Kim's family, most likely Chang Song Taek, a senior party official who is married to Kim's favorite sister.