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Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Iran boat threat

Iran is adding Chinese-made small boats armed with anti-ship cruise missiles to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy that can be used in attacks on shipping in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, according to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Iran still states that the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy] will employ swarming tactics in a conflict,” ONI analyst Robert Althage said in an e-mail, noting that the paramilitary organization “continues to add boats armed with anti-ship cruise missiles, such as the FL-10, to its inventory.”

China began supplying Iran over the past several years with small, high-speed C-14 catamarans armed with the optically guided FL-10 anti-ship cruise missiles.

Mr. Althage said in response to questions posed by Bloomberg News that recent exercises by the Iranians did not show any new capabilities and that the maneuvers appeared designed “for publicity.”

Currently, Iran operates three Russian-made Kilo submarines but has not yet mined waterways, the ONI analyst stated.

A 2004 ONI report said the Iranian IRGC navy has more than 1,000 small boats ranging in length from 17 to 60 feet, and many are concentrated near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where a large majority of the world’s oil passes.

The boats can be used in attacks against shipping and include infantry weapons, unguided barrage rockets, recoilless guns, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

North Korea watch

U.S. intelligence agencies think North Korea is continuing development of nuclear weapons, as well as working on “miniaturization” of weapons for missile warheads, according to a senior Bush administration official.

Since the February nuclear accord reached in Beijing, North Korea has continued work on weapons, said a senior Bush administration official involved in North Korean affairs.

“There are no indications that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, to include the weaponization and miniaturization,” the official said.

U.S. intelligence officials think North Korea, which received equipment through the covert Pakistani nuclear-supplier network headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, obtained Chinese documents on designing a small warhead, the key to developing a nuclear weapon small enough for missile warheads.

The Chinese-language warhead design documents were first uncovered in Libya, which gave up its nuclear program in 2003.

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