JERUSALEM (Mar. 10)
Israel has expressed its concern to the United States over information that North Korea is providing Syria with advanced Scud missiles, as well as the technology to produce them.
According to Ze’ev Schiff, military correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Syria is buying from North Korea the Scud-C missile, which has a range of 373 miles, and a more advanced Scud, whose range is 620 miles. Damascus is also adding warplanes and tanks to add to its already copious arsenal.
The North Koreans are, in fact, now believed to be shipping Scud-Cs to both Syria and Iran, and the United States has said publicly it is considering intervention.
U.S. intelligence agencies are reported to be tracking the Iranian-flag ship Iran Salaam, which is suspected of carrying Scud-Cs from North Korea to Syria.
American defense authorities have also been tracking another ship, the Dae Hung Ho, which left North Korea in early February believed to be carrying Scud-Cs and related equipment.
U.S. warships had been ready to intercept or board the Dae Hung Ho if it entered the Persian Gulf, but they reportedly lost track of the ship.
U.S. intelligence believed the Scud-Cs were headed for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, but other reports said the ship was bound for another Iranian port, Busheir, or for Karachi, Pakistan.
Another North Korean ship, the Dae Hung Dan, also sailed in February and is being watched. But Washington officials say they do not believe Israeli intelligence reports that it is carrying equipment for the manufacture of Scuds.
Schiff of Ha’aretz considers direct American interdiction on the high seas most unlikely.
Such action would not be well-founded in international law, given that the U.N. Security Council has not voted an embargo on either Syria or Iran, he pointed out.
In a related development, both The New York Times and the weekly news magazine U.S. News and World Report are reporting that North Korea, is about to become a nuclear power.
Robert Gates, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, recently returned from a Middle East trip and reported that North Korea is just months away from becoming a nuclear power.
U.S. News, in its March 16 edition, writes, “North America and its allies may be facing a painful choice: Either use military force to prevent North Korea and others from going nuclear, or learn to live in a world in which nearly every nation that wants nuclear weapons has them.”