U.S. planning coalition against North Korean proliferation

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The United States is examining the prospect of forming yet another coalition, this time to stop the proliferation of North Korean missiles and weapons of mass destruction to Middle East clients.

North Korea is regarded as the leading missile and WMD proliferator in the world. Pyongyang has sold missiles and components to such Middle East clients as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Officials said the proliferation issue became urgent in December 2002 after a ship laden with North Korean Scud-class missiles was stopped en route from Pyongyang to Yemen. After a day, the United States agreed to release the ship because of Yemeni threats to end military cooperation and the lack of international regulations to hold the vessel.

"We stopped that North Korean ship that was headed down towards Yemen and we had to give it up because we had no legal right to keep it," Rumsfeld said. "We need the legal right to keep it. We need the ability to do that."

Officials said the issue has been discussed in high levels of the Defense Department, State Department and the National Security Council. They said the need to halt North Korean proliferation would be a key element in the war on terrorism.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States would seek to form a coalition to stop the proliferation of missiles and WMD after the Iraqi crisis is resolved. Rumsfeld said the coalition would be required to implement new international regulations that would enable the United States and allies to stop suspected missile and WMD shipments.

"I think what we're going to have to do is get the technologically advanced countries of the world to fashion a new regime, a new set of regulations and rules that enable us to interdict and stop, whether it's in the land, the sea or the air, the transportation and the movement of nuclear weapons, fissile material, ballistic missile technology," Rumsfeld said on March 4. "It takes enormous cooperation from countries."

Officials said a key proposal is for the United States to link relations with countries to their willingness to stop missile and WMD exports. They said this would begin with connecting U.S. arms and technology transfers to foreign countries to their commitment to implement uniform standards on export control.

The draft proliferation policy is also based on a White House decision not to attack North Korea. Pyongyang is believed to have at least two nuclear weapons and the capability to produce several additional weapons per year.

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