A Desperate North Korea Sells Missiles to Yemen (January, 2003)

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2002

In December, a shipment of Scud missiles enroute from North Korea to Yemen was seized by two frigates from the Spanish Navy. Although the the US subsequently decided to allow Yemen to take possession of the shipment “after receiving assurances that the missiles would not be transferred to any state sponsoring terrorism,” latest information suggests that Yemen may, in turn, be preparing to sell the missiles to parties hostile to US and Israeli interests.

The North Korean-owned freighter So San was boarded about 600 miles east of the Horn of Africa by two frigates of the Spanish Navy, acting on information from the US. The ship was stopped because it was flying no flag, and one ship had to fire shots across the So San’s bow before it would stop.

While Yemen has long been suspected of being a major hideout for al Qaida and other terrorist groups, the Yemeni government has officially been a strong ally of the United States and may figure prominently as a US base in any war with Iraq.

The North Korean captain claimed the So San was carrying cement. The Scuds were discovered shortly thereafter. Fifteen complete Scud missiles, 15 conventional warheads, and 23 containers of nitric acid were found aboard the vessel.

Cash-strapped and starving North Korean continues to sell its weapons technology to whomever is willing to buy it, and Scuds go for about $ 15 M apiece on the export market.

The SS-1C/Scud-B can carry a 2,000-pound high explosive, chemical, biological, or nuclear warhead up to 180 miles.

[illustration: www.fas.org]