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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 13:49 GMT
US berates N Korea over Scud exports
Spanish Marines board the So San
Spanish Marines were dropped aboard by helicopter
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has condemned North Korea over its apparent attempt to deliver a shipment of Scud missiles to Yemen.

Acting on American intelligence, the Spanish Navy intercepted and boarded the freighter So San in the Arabian Sea on Monday.


They continue to be the largest proliferator of missiles and ballistic missile technology on the face of the Earth.

Donald Rumsfeld
US naval forces then conducted a search of the vessel and discovered 15 Scud missiles and warheads hidden under a cargo of cement, along with a quantity of chemicals.

Yemen has now confirmed that it ordered the missiles, and has protested to the US and Spain over the ships's seizure.

While the Yemeni Government is not regarded as an enemy by the US, there are fears that such military hardware could fall into the hands of radical Islamic groups operating in the country.

Scud missile in its launcher
North Korea has sent missiles to Yemen before
Mr Rumsfeld said: "North Korea doesn't like to hear me say it, but they continue to be the largest proliferator of missiles and ballistic missile technology on the face of the Earth.

"They are putting in the hands of many countries technology and capabilities which have the potential for destroying hundreds of thousands of people."

Legal questions

Mr Rumsfeld declined to comment on whether the missile shipment constituted a violation of international law, but said there were legal issues surrounding efforts to conceal the weapons.

Questions about the legality of the seizure have already been raised.

US naval forces have taken charge of the ship and are escorting it to Diego Garcia island.

The current US administration has branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil", along with Iraq and Iran.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bob Berry
"There is nothing to link this cargo to Iraq"
The BBC's Frank Gardner
"These are long range missiles which can carry nuclear, biological or chemical warheads"
Aiden Foster Carter, Leeds University
"North Korea would sell anything to anyone"
See also:

11 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Nov 02 | Americas
17 Nov 02 | Middle East
08 Nov 02 | Africa
07 Nov 02 | Middle East
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