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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Yemen - Background

North and South Yemen had both received deliveries of Soviet SS-21 Scarab ballistic missiles. Following its border clashes with North Yemen in 1979, South Yemen received FROG-7 missiles with about 12 launchers and Scud-Bs with about 6 launchers, from the Soviet Union. (Aaron Karp, "Ballistic Missile Proliferation in the Third World,", p. 308.) These missiles likely remained in Yemen's combined arsenal.

In 2002 Spanish marines boarded the North Korean ship So San in the Arabian Sea found to be transporting 15 Scud missiles to Yemen. The seizure provides a compelling illustration of how weapons of mass destruction and the vehicles which can carry them can spread--and of the difficulties of dealing with both the states which supply them and those which acquire them. Why were the missiles being transported as hidden cargo? Yemen claims the missiles were for its own defensive purposes. The sensational seizure by Spanish naval units of a ship from North Korea with a cargo of Scud ballistic missiles aimed for Yemen--but which Washington obviously thought were meant for Iraq--is turning into an embarrassing political incident.

From a military point of view, the operation was successful, but things are different from a political angle. The Yemeni foreign minister sent a very harsh letter to the U.S. ambassador, explaining that the missiles are destined for the Yemeni army and should be sent to Yemen right away. The U.S. Administration explained that it did not wait for the ship to get closer to its destination in order not to upset the Yemeni authorities, whose cooperation it needs to dismantle the al-Qaida networks in the region. The sale of Scud missiles is not forbidden under international law. Yemen was allowed to take possession of the missiles and was not penalized for its role in the transaction.

Some of the SCUDs received in 12/02 were non-functional because certain components were old and defective. At Yemen's request, a senior DPRK official -- the Deputy Minister of Industry -- had visited during August to discuss the matter. The visit was not/not publicized in Yemen. Yemen's demand for a monetary refund was not accepted, but after 10 days of negotiation a "solution" was agreed. North Korea is to send a team of experts with the spare parts necessary to restore the defective missiles to working order. They will come "soon," and remain as long as necessary to complete the job.

There will be no upgrade, no extension of range, and no enhancement of missile capabilities in any respect. There would be no further payment by Yemen, as the repairs were within the scope of the old agreement under which the missiles were delivered. Moreover, the presence of the North Korean technical team would not be prolonged or evolve into some new technical cooperation. They would depart once the work was complete, and Yemeni technicians were prepared to assume comprehensive responsibility for the SCUDs in Yemen's arsenal.

By 2010 by one estimate Yemeni missile strength included six Scud-B launchers, with up to an 33 missiles, and 22 other surface-to-surface missiles.

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Page last modified: 17-12-2017 12:38:20 ZULU