By Chang Jae-soon
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah could replenish their arms stockpiles with weapons from North Korea as both groups are engaged in military action, a security expert said in a report published Tuesday.
Andrea Berger, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, raised the possibility in a report on the website 38 North, saying Pyongyang has a "historical, and possibly continuing, arms relationship" with non-state actors in the Middle East.
"Suggestions that Hamas and Hezbollah may need to restock their weapons stockpiles seem plausible since both are engaged in military action," Berger said in the report. "Hamas, for instance, has apparently already fired more than 3,200 rockets into Israel during the current conflict."
Weapons the two groups could buy from North Korea include AK-47s and ammunition, mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines, surface-to-surface missiles, and man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), she said.
"Not only is the demand apparent, but also is the supply. North Korea is adept at producing some of the arms that Hamas and Hezbollah most need," the analyst said. "It has domestic production lines for 240mm and 120mm multiple rocket launchers and their associated rockets and fuses, AK-47s and ammunition, RPG-7s and a variety of warheads for them, and Igla-copy MANPADS."
"Previous customers of North Korean weapons have spoken of Pyongyang's ability to undercut other suppliers in terms of price," she said. "In theory, Pyongyang is therefore an economical source of potentially critically-required systems and parts for militant groups in the Middle East."
Last month, a U.S. court ruled that North Korea and Iran are liable for damages for providing material support, including military training and assistance in building a network of underground tunnels, for a series of rocket and missile attacks on Israel by Hezbollah in 2006.
The Daily Telegraph has also reported that Hamas is negotiating a new arms deal with North Korea.
"A general consensus among analysts is that today, North Korea's dominant motivation for arms sales is the possible financial gain," Berger said. "North Korea's desire to show they are 'in the same trench' with friendly governments by helping their clients, may complement economic motivations for the sale."
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