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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  218992

Title:  "US Ships Intercepts Focus on Cargoes Destined for Iraq." The North Korean cargo freighter Dae Hung Ho arrived in an Iranian port but its cargo is still unknown, although it is suspected that the ship is carrying Korean Scud missiles, possibly bound for Syria, but the US has no intention of intercepting the ship or its cargo, focusing such operations on shipments bound for Iraq. (920310)

Date:  19920310



U.S. SHIP INTERCEPTS FOCUS ON CARGOS DESTINED FOR IRAQ (Other nations are not covered by UN embargo) (850) By Jacquelyn S. Porth USIA Security Affairs Correspondent Washington -- The spokesman for the Department of Defense says that U.S. Navy maritime intercept operations in the Persian Gulf focus specifically on shipments to Iraq and "not other nations in the region."

Spokesman Pete Williams said the North Korean cargo freighter, Dae Hung Ho, arrived in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas March 9, but that its cargo is not known. Press reports suggested that the ship's cargo contained Korean Scud surface-to-surface missiles, possibly bound for Syria. He said the United States had received a tip "that gave us certain suspicions" that there might be Scuds aboard, "but we just can't be certain."

Even if the Scuds are unloaded from the freighter in Iran, the spokesman said, "I don't know what we'd do about it now." Both the North Koreans and the Iranians are "well aware of our concern about proliferation, and especially ballistic missile and that kind of technology," he pointed out.

Williams noted that the United States hopes North and South Korean discussions will promote "greater transparency" about North Korean intentions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Secretary of State Baker has pursued this theme during trips to the region, he said, and President Bush has raised the idea of a five-nations meeting to discuss proliferation issues.

"We are clearly concerned with the spread of Scuds to that area," the spokesman noted. "There are a lot of arms sales that go in the world," Williams said, that the United States does not like, "but that doesn't mean that we have the legal ability to go out and stop them."

If the ship had been bound for Iraq, the spokesman said U.S. naval ships "would have tracked...and intercepted it" under the terms of the United Nations trade and arms embargo. "The embargo is against shipments to and from Iraq," Williams noted. The United States has been conducting maritime intercepts in most of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the southern Persian Gulf according to U.N. Security Council resolutions, he said, since August 1990 carrying out some 13,000 intercepts.

Williams said the Navy saw the Korean freighter in the Indian Ocean last week, but subsequently lost track of it in the dense ship traffic of the Persian Gulf.

He said he could not pinpoint why it disappeared from view, but offered the explanation that it "either followed a circuitous route or, perhaps, hugged the coastline and wasn't picked out of the heavy coastal traffic in that area." He also suggested that it may have avoided U.S. detection by confining its route to territorial, rather than international waters.

Pressed on why the United States did not stop and search the ship at some point, the spokesman said, "I can't imagine why we would have searched it if it was going to Iran." A ship destined for Iran does not fall under the terms of the U.N. embargo, he noted, and, therefore, locating it would not be the highest priority for the Navy. "It would have been nice if we had found it," he added.

Asked if the Navy would have intercepted the freighter if it had been encountered, Williams said, "We probably would have." It is the intention of the United States, he explained, "to have the option to intercept any shipping that comes into that region," but he also noted that it is impossible to track and monitor the cargo of every ship in the area.

The Navy currently has 22 ships in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and northern Arabia Sea, according to Williams, which are available to support maritime intercept operations: one carrier, one command ship, three destroyers, four cruisers, two frigates, five amphibious ships, six auxiliary ships; in the Red Sea there are five ships: two destroyers, two frigates, and one auxiliary ship.

The spokesman said he was not aware of any Bush administration campaign "flogging the idea" that the Navy was watching out for the Korean ship. There is no embargo on North Korean shipments to Iran, Williams noted. "There is a limit to what we could have done," he added.

Asked if any one had considered the idea that the cargo might be trans-shipped from Iran to Iraq, the spokesman said, there has been nothing to indicate that that would be the case. He also pointed out that the U.S. responsibility in enforcing the embargo is confined to maritime operations.

Williams acknowledged that a second ship bound for the Gulf from North Korea, the Iran Salam, was contacted by radio by an American destroyer early March 10. The ship's captain said his cargo, bound for Bandar Abbas, contained steel and drilling equipment. "As is the case with the other ship," he said, "we can't be sure...what the cargo is." There is no second Korean freighter, nor third ship, destined for Iran, he added.


File Identification:  03/10/92, EP-205
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Thematic Codes:  1AC; 1NE; 2FP
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  218992

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