Tokyo daily: N. Korea increasing missile exports to Mideast

Friday, May 16, 2003

North Korea has increased its ballistic missile exports to the Middle East over the last two years, according to a report in a major Japanese daily.

In 2001, North Korea exported $580 million worth of ballistic missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. military officer in South Korea told the Japanese-based Yomiuri Shimbun. It was the first time a U.S. official source provided a dollar amount for Pyongyang's missile exports to the Middle East.

"It is rare for a U.S. military officer in South Korea to reveal such specific figures, and analysts said the action suggested Washington would soon increase economic pressure on Pyongyang," the Yomiuri Shimbun article said.

Western intelligence sources said Pyongyang increased its exports in 2001 and 2002 with missile sales to such countries as Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan Syria and Yemen. They said the exports included components, technology as well as entire Scud-based systems.

The report of the increase in North Korean missile exports comes as the Bush administration has launched an effort to halt Pyongyang's missile sales. U.S. officials said the effort would focus on an international embargo imposed on North Korea with the help of the United Nations Security Council.

The increase in missile exports was first seen in 2001, the sources said, when North Korea completed several deals with Middle East clients, the sources said. Missile sales were said to have further increased in 2002.

The sources said North Korean missile exports averaged fewer than $500 million in the 1990s. They said the exports began to increase at the end of the 1990s with Pyongyang's aid to Iran's Shihab-3 intermediate-missile program.

The increase, the sources said, was prompted by North Korean exports of the No-Dong intermediate-range missile, developed in the early 1990s. Pyongyang began exporting the No-Dong and components around 1997, first to Iran and then to Libya and Egypt.

North Korea's leading missile company is Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, which has been sanctioned by the United States. The company is also said to have exported Scud C short-range and Scud D medium-range missiles to such countries as Syria and Yemen.

The United States has asked Japan to tighten export restrictions on dual use technology. The request was meant to prevent Japan from exporting advanced civilian technology that can be used for Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.

On Thursday, a North Korean defector said to have been involved in the country's missile development program said 90 percent of missile components were imported from Japan. At a news conference in Washington, the defector, who used the name Lee Bok Koo and whose face was covered, said he had worked in North Korea's missile program until 1997. He reported that Japanese exports of missile components fell sharply after Pyongyang tested the No Dong missile in 1993.

"We are too accustomed to Japanese parts and there were no substitutes," Lee said, speaking in Korean.

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