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Thursday, September 07, 2006

U.S. Says It Has Limited North Korean Missile Sales

The United States has had some success in limiting North Korea’s export of missiles by persuading other countries not to buy them, a senior administration official says.

Washington has long sought to stop such sales and stepped up its initiative after Pyongyang tested a string of missiles in July, including a long-range missile.

"As a direct result of our policies, we have cut off North Korea from several of its customers for ballistic missiles," Robert Joseph, the Bush administration’s top non-proliferation official, told Reuters.

"We have made it more difficult for the North to ship missiles and have made it more likely that these shipments will be exposed. The risk of exposure further turns off customers," he said in a recent interview.
He said Yemen committed not to buy more North Korean missiles after taking delivery of a shipment of 15 Scuds in 2002 and Libya promised to forgo North Korean missiles as part of a 2003 agreement in which it abandoned its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.
Some U.S. officials say Pakistan and Egypt also are no longer buying from Pyongyang, leaving Iran and Syria as the major missile customers.
Some other U.S. officials and experts are skeptical of the effectiveness of the Bush administration policy.

Jonathan Pollack, chair of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island, welcomed the close scrutiny the U.S.-led program had brought on North Korea’s activities but said the results were difficult to measure and it was probably too soon to draw firm conclusions.

The U.S. strategy includes a crackdown on banks that aid the North’s illicit activities and the "proliferation security initiative" in which some 88 member nations share intelligence and practice interdicting weapons shipments.

In addition potential buyer nations now may find their U.S. aid curtailed if they buy weapons from North Korea. Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt are major recipients of U.S. assistance.

After Pyongyang tested seven missiles in July, the United Nations called on countries to avoid supporting the missile program. Missile sales earn the impoverished state hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency.
One long-range missile crashed soon after launch during the July tests, but the other medium range missiles hit their target areas, U.S. officials and experts said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said North Korea -- which claims to be a nuclear weapons power -- is more dangerous as a proliferator than as a military threat to neighbor South Korea.

Pyongyang has been working on missile production for three decades and is the leading supplier of ballistic missiles to the developing world, experts say.

The chief exports are variations of Soviet-origin Scud missiles, regarded as fairly reliable and accurate but based on technology advanced military powers would consider obsolete.

North Korea’s oldest and most loyal customer has been Iran, which helped finance Scud development, according to various U.S. studies. The connection dates to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when Pyongyang tested and shipped missiles to Tehran.

North Korea, as well as China, provided ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and their production facilities to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, U.S. government reports say. Libya and Pakistan have also been missile customers.
Source(©): Reuters
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