Nigeria says DPRK offers missile technology
( 2004-01-29 08:48) (Agencies)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has offered to share missile technology with Nigeria and the two states are expected to sign a preliminary agreement soon, a Nigerian government spokesman said on Wednesday.
The United States said it would encourage Nigeria, a key oil supplier and ally, to reject any arms deals with DPRK, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.
A memorandum of understanding is being discussed between Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his DPRK counterpart, Yang Hyong-sop, who is on a five-day visit to the West African country.
"They have made a lot of offers including training of army personnel, defense cooperation and missile technology, but definitely nothing to do with nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction," said Onukaba Ojo, a spokesman for the Nigerian vice president.
Ojo said he had no details on the type of missiles on offer, but the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency ranks DPRk as the world's largest exporter of ballistic missiles.
The United States labeled DPRK as part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and pre-war Iraq, and has intervened in recent DPRK's missile deliveries to Yemen.
"Obviously, this issue of regional stability and military acquisition is something that we do care about, something that's a regular part of our dialogue with Nigeria," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
"We'd welcome a decision to turn down any such offers from DPRK. We want to stop DPRK's missile activities. And we've gone to many countries to try to encourage them not to buy."
Ojo said that Nigeria had already bought arms from Britain, the United States and Russia, and that the offer of DPRK's hardware had been on the table for a long time.
The two sides were expected to sign the Memorandum of Understanding soon, he added.
On Tuesday night, the state-run News Agency of Nigeria said that Abubakar had "expressed an interest in signing a defense pact with DPRK on the grounds that the Asian country was developed in that area."
A Western diplomatic source said Nigeria already had a supply of Soviet surface-to-air missiles, but that they were in a poor state of repair.
The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo is key ally of the United States in Africa, and is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the superpower. But the country has also been reaching out to Asia in an effort to attract investment and alliances.
Nigeria says its weapons are needed for security and peacekeeping. Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria sees itself as a regional superpower and currently has troops in war-torn Liberia.
Missile sales are a major source of revenue for cash-strapped DPRK, which is expected to resume talks soon with Washington and other nations on dismantling its suspected nuclear programs.
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