LONDON ø Scud missiles and warheads bound for Syria were on a train that exploded in North Korea, according to Asian intelligence sources and South Korean newspaper reports.
A 2002 order by Syria called for the delivery of North Korean Scud
D medium-range missiles along with biological and chemical warheads which are weapons of mass destruction.
The sources said North Korea had completed work on some of the missiles before the catastrophic
train explosion in North Korea. But the train that exploded did not contain biological or
chemical weapons agents, they said. Instead, they said the train contained Scud D
missiles, warheads and fuel propellants.
Although North Korea has maintained official silence about the April 22 rail blast in a North Korean town near the Chinese border, newspapers in South Korea continue to publish reports about the incident, Middle East Newsline reported.
On Thursday, the opposition Future Korea weekly quoted an anonymous
North Korean expert who said Syria has ordered a "large number" of Scud
missiles with biological and chemical warheads. The North Korean said the
Scud engines were produced at the so-called "January 8 Factory" in Kaechon
while the missiles were assembled in the Shin-eum-ri facility in Pyongyang.
The newspaper quoted the North Korean as saying that the BW and CW
warheads were assembled at the Namheung Chemical Factory and were onboard
the train when it exploded in what was described as an accident. He said the
casing of the missiles were produced at Factory No. 26 in Kanggye.
"These details on North Korean WMD trafficking have been of great
interest because the U.S. government is expected to take extraordinary
measures against North Korea over the next few months," the newspaper said.
"There is considerable evidence that North Korea had completed BW and CW
warhead components for shipment to Syria in May," an Asian intelligence
source who monitors North Korea said. "The shipment was to have been the
first of several batches of missile and nonconventional warhead components."
The train blast on April 22 in the Ryongchon station in North Korea's
North Pyongan province killed scores of people, including at least 10 Syrian
technicians, the sources said. They said the Syrians aboard the trainload of
missiles and warhead components were members of the state-owned Center for
Scientific Research and Studies, which helps administer Syria's
nonconventional weapons program.
At the same time, a South Korean daily reported that North Korea has
tested an engine for the multi-staged Taepo Dong-2 liquid-fuel,
JoongAng reported on Thursday that the missile
engine underwent a successful test at the Musudan missile factory in North
Korea's North Hamgyong province and could pave the way for an imminent
flight test. In December 2002, an explosion was said to have destroyed Taepo
Dong missile engine production facilities.
North Korea has offered the Taepo Dong to several Middle
East clients, including Iran and Syria. The South Korean Defense Ministry
said that in 2002 North Korea sold $60 million worth of missiles and
components to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
"U.S. intelligence agencies think that the size of the combustion trace
and the amount of liquid fuel used, suggest that the test was part of an
experiment to develop the Taepo Dong-2 missile," JoongAng quoted a
diplomatic source as saying.