- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

Russia is selling missile technology and components to North Korea and nuclear weapons components to Iran, The Washington Times has learned.

Moscow's latest weapons proliferation activity was outlined in sensitive intelligence reports sent earlier this month to senior policy-makers, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

A June 8 U.S. intelligence report from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, stated that missile component companies in Russia and Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, were cooperating on the sale of missile parts to North Korea, the officials said.

The parts being sold included a special aluminum alloy, laser gyroscopes used in missile guidance and connectors and relays used in missile electronics, they said.

The report identified the government-owned North Korean company. A U.S. intelligence agency asked that the name not be disclosed. The Russian and Uzbek manufacturers were not identified.

Disclosure of Russia's latest missile-proliferation activities comes weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a plan for a pan-European missile defense shield to complement a U.S. system opposed by Moscow.

"This intelligence shows the Russians are playing both sides of the fence," said an intelligence official. "They are talking missile defense while helping boost the missile threat."

Mr. Putin earlier this month proposed a continentwide missile defense that would protect capitals from Lisbon to Vladivostok from missile attack. His suggestion followed President Clinton's declaration last month that he is willing to share U.S. defense technology with Russia and other "civilized nations."

The security agency also reported that Russia was collaborating with a North Korean missile company in sending Scud B missile components to the Middle East state of Yemen.

Officials familiar with the report explained that the gyroscopes for North Korean Scud B missiles were first sold to North Korea's Changgwang Sinyong company in Kazakhstan and then resold to Yemen.

The announcement earlier this month that the United States is lifting some sanctions against North Korea stated that Changgwang Sinyong would remain subject to restrictions. Changgwang Sinyong was sanctioned by the State Department in April for its role in selling Scud missiles to Iran, and because of the company's missile proliferation activities, all U.S. export licenses for the company are blocked.

As to the nuclear exports to Iran, a third NSA report from June 8 stated that Russia is sending tritium gas to a nuclear weapons research center in Tehran.

Russia has been engaged in helping Iran develop a nuclear power generating plant at Busheur, but, in the past, Moscow has denied helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.

Tritium is a radioactive gas an isotope of hydrogen. Its primary use is to enhance the explosive power of nuclear warheads.

Robert Barker, a nuclear weapons specialist, said tritium has some applications other than its use in nuclear weapons. For instance, it is used in radio luminescence. However, its delivery to a nuclear research center would indicate plans to use it for weapons, he said.

"The well-known utilization of tritium is for enhancing the performance of nuclear weapons," Mr. Barker said in an interview. "This is an issue of concern and one would expect Iran to be very forthcoming in providing assurances about what it is being used for."

A Senate aide who specializes in weapons proliferation said the reports show Russian weapons proliferation continues to be a danger. And he commented, "This is one more example of the Russian government's failure to control missile technology and nuclear exports. Whether the government is incapable or uninterested in controlling its borders is immaterial."

About the North Korean connection, the aide said Moscow's "work with North Korea in sending missile components to a third country also demonstrates that the North Korean problem is not solved in any way, shape or form."

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Russian arms proliferation shows the "complete breakdown" of Clinton administration arms-control policies.

"This is another clear indication of this administration's total failure in the arms-control arena," he said in an interview. "They have consistently denied the reality that these problems exist and now we're continuing to pay the price as rogue states continue to develop systems to be used against America, our allies and our troops that we have to defend."

The Clinton administration has been trying for the past several years to win Moscow's cooperation in curbing dangerous nuclear-arms sales. But the U.S. appeals have not been successful in curbing the transfers, according to the intelligence officials.

"Russia is continuing to ignore U.S. government demands to halt the arms sales," the intelligence official said and added, "The fact that it is collaborating secretly with other states is even more troubling."

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