United States intelligence agencies recently uncovered a covert deal between North Korea and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government to ship Scud missile parts from North Korea through China to Egypt.
Intelligence reports from mid-November were circulated to senior officials in the State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies. The shipment would be the first by the North Korean regime to the new Egyptian regime headed by Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president.
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The shipment of Scud components is scheduled to be sent by air cargo transport through China and on to Egypt, according to U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports.
The arms deal, if it goes through, would further violate United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea since the early 2000s for its nuclear and missile tests.
China has repeatedly violated the U.N. sanctions on North Korea by providing goods and technology to the communist regime in Pyongyang, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The Obama administration so far has failed to challenge either Beijing or Pyongyang for the violations.
The most serious proliferation activity, according to the officials, was China’s recent transfer of road-mobile strategic nuclear missile launchers to North Korea. The transporter-erector launchers (TELs) were spotted in April during a military parade in Pyongyang carrying the new KN-08 ICBM, a road-mobile ICBM capable of hitting U.S. cities. That strategically significant arms proliferation has gone unchallenged by the administration, officials said.
Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said China's role in facilitating North Korean missile proliferation to Egypt should result in United Nations sanctions against China, specifically blocking Chinese airline flights to Egypt.
"This transaction only serves to once again highlight China's central Hydra-like role in facilitating the age of nuclear and missile terrorism that first will be directed against the free world," Fisher said.
Fisher said the proliferation has left Israel facing a three-pronged Chinese-origin missile threat that includes Hesbollahs' Iranian-Chinese missiles; Egypt's Chinese-enabled missiles; and also a future threat of North Korean, Chinese-enabled ICBMs that could be sold to Iran.
"It is logical and just that Israel would consider how it would deliver retribution to China, even nuclear retribution," Fisher said. "It is imperative for both Israel and the United States to prepare to respond to China's actions that have made possible the gathering nuclear missile holocaust aimed at Israel."
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 passed in June 2009 extended an arms embargo on North Korea by banning all weapons exports from the country and most imports.
Disclosure of the pending Scud missile parts deal comes as the Obama administration is seeking additional U.N. sanctions on North Korea, which so far appear to have done little to stop North Korea from selling both nuclear and missile components around the world.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment. A Pentagon spokesman also declined to comment. A Chinese Embassy spokesman also could not be reached for comment.
According to U.S. officials, North Korea received its first Scud missiles from Egypt in the 1980s, and then reverse-engineered the Soviet-design short-range ballistic missiles. North Korea currently has several variants of the Scud and a medium-range version that were sold to several Middle Eastern and South Asian states including Iran, Syria, and Pakistan.
North Korea currently manufactures its own Scud D missiles along with medium-range Nodong missiles and the recently tested Taepodong-2 long-range missile that was built using several stages of modified Scuds stacked.
The Taepodong-2 made its first successful flight test on Tuesday, lofting a satellite into orbit. Arms control advocates have accepted North Korea’s claim that the missile is really a space launcher dubbed Unha-2.
One U.S. official who is critical of the administration’s national security policies said the State Department so far failed to take diplomatic steps to stop the Scud parts transfer.
"Why is the administration allowing this [shipment] to happen? Because they are siding with the Egyptians and their efforts in Gaza," the official said.
According to a classified State Department cable disclosed on Wikileaks, North Korea’s Scud missile program began in the 1980s when the regime reverse engineered 186-mile-range Scud B missiles obtained from Egypt.
China's missile proliferation activities were discussed during meetings between Pentagon and Chinese military officials during a meeting of the Defense Consultative Talks led by Jim Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Chinese Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, a U.S. official said.
According to a Pentagon statement, Miller told the Chinese the North Korean missile launch violated U.N. sanctions and was "a provocative act that threatens regional peace and security."
According to China's state-run Xinhua, Qi told Miller about China's position on Taiwan, Japan's Senkaku Islands, which China claims as the Diaoyu Islands, and disputes over the South China Sea.
"This Scud B technology went on to form the basis for the DPRK’s Scud B, Scud C, Nodong, Taepodong-l (TD-1), and TD-2 systems," the Oct. 6, 2009 cable stated.
"In return for the Scud Bs, North Korea assisted Egypt's efforts to domestically produce Scuds."
North Korea is now a major supplier of extended-range Scuds around the world as a result of its 20 years experience with the system.
"North Korea is able to design and produce extended-range variants of the Scud, capable of delivering payloads of over 500 kg to ranges up to 1,000 km," the cable said.
North Korea also supplied Scuds to Syria. Reports from the war-torn country this week indicated the regime of Bashar al Assad is using Scuds in attacks against rebels.
Details of the proposed sale could not be learned.
However, a State Department cable from May 12, 2009, identified three North Korean weapons suppliers who were sanctioned under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 passed after a Taeopodong-2 missile test in April of that year.
The entities are likely involved in the current deal with Egypt.
They were identified as the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation (Ryonbong), and Tanchon Commercial Bank.
The administration appealed to Egypt’s government as well as to the governments of United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Britain, Russia, India, South Korea, and Singapore to block all activities by the three North Korean arms dealers.
The U.S. government informed the Egyptian government in April 2006 to block the Tanchon Commercial Bank account at the National Bank of Egypt, according to the cable.
However, the Egyptian government ignored the request. "According to April 2009 Bankers Almanac information, Tanchon still maintains that account," the cable said.
"We strongly urge Egypt to refrain from engaging in any cooperation with KOMID, particularly in light of this UN designation under UNSCR 1718," the cable said.