- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

For years, there have been reports Egypt was buying missile technology from North Korea. Persistent rumors in the 1990s said there were dozens of North Korean technicians in Egypt helping extend the range of Egypt's Scuds. In recent years, there have been stories that Cairo was buying Nodong missiles from North Korea. With a range of 800 miles, the Nodong could be launched against any part of Israel from deep within Egypt.
Every U.S. administration has denied or downplayed these stories. Protecting Egypt is practically a cottage industry at the State Department. After all, President Carter's Camp David accords cemented relations between the U.S. and Egypt and helped establish peace between Egypt and Israel. But it did so at a cost to the U.S. taxpayer of more than $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt.
This was considered a good deal that would bring peace to the Middle East. But now, after 23 years and some $50 billion in aid, peace is elusive and Egypt remains an enigma. Even while accepting billions for not fighting Israel, the Egyptian government continues trying to acquire weapons that wouldbe most useful against Israel.
The most recent allegations appeared in the major German daily newspaper Die Welt, which ran a story on June 22 about an Egyptian arrangement with China to develop nuclear energy. The German paper refers to an agreement signed in Beijing in January during the visit of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The paper says Egypt is getting Chinese help to mine uranium in the Sinai Peninsula and in exploring ways to enrich uranium.
Citing Western intelligence sources, the article suggests Egypt is laying the groundwork for a nuclear weapons capability, noting the calls of high-ranking Egyptian officers for nuclear weapons to face Israel. As recently as June 29, Lt. Gen. Samy Annan, Egypt's air defense chief, told a Cairo press conference that there is a pressing need for Egypt to possess a deterrent force.
The two legs of a deterrent are weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles that can deliver them. Egypt has long had chemical weapons and is one of the few countries that has used them. In 1963, during the civil war in Yemen, the Egyptian Air Force dropped phosgene and mustard gas on royalist soldiers. This use of chemical weapons broke the moratorium on their use that had prevailed in World War II.
Egypt bought its first ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union, short-range Frog 7s and 180-mile range Scud Bs, in the 1970s. In 1981, Egypt sold several Scuds with their mobile launchers to North Korea. Through reverse engineering, North Korea produced and tested its own Scud B by 1984. That led directly to the North Korean Scud C, Nodong and Taepo Dong missiles that are a threat to the United States and its allies today.
In 1990, Egypt signed an agreement with China to help modernize Egypt's missile production, but in recent years Cairo's missile deals with North Korea have received more attention. Last year, there were reports Egypt had bought 50 Nodong missiles from North Korea. The Egyptian government denied the purchase, but Egypt has always denied its dealings with North Korea.
U.S. intelligence sources confirmed the deal, saying it involved the transfer of technology to produce the Nodong. Members of Congress became interested, linking continuation of billions in U.S. aid to Egyptian restraint in its missile program. Alarmed, in July 2001 Cairo send a delegation to Washington for meetings with administration officials.
These discussions were largely kept under wraps in Washington, but the Jerusalem Post cited a U.S. official as saying the administration was satisfied that it had pressured Egypt to cancel plans to import 50 Nodong rocket engines from North Korea. Some members of Congress, notably Reps. Benjamin Gilman, New York Republican, and Tom Lantos, California Democrat, were not satisfied, demanding more openness from Cairo.
Last August, administration officials spoke of a new coordinating mechanism between Egypt and the United States to enable Washington to better understand what weapons Egypt was buying. Then came Mr. Mubarak's trip to Beijing and the agreement with China on nuclear cooperation, followed by unsubstantiated reports that Egypt had received Nodong missiles from North Korea and a separate shipment of 50 Nodong rocket engines via Libya.
Egypt continues to deny everything, but the concerns are justified. The country is a hotbed of fanatics who want to overthrow the government and create an Iranian-style theocracy that is anti-U.S. and anti-Israel. The 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat shows what can happen.
If Cairo wants to continue receiving large sums in U.S. aid it must refrain from trying to obtain longer-range missiles and nuclear weapons, and provide full transparency about its dealings with suchcountries as North Korea, China and Libya. The administration should insist on such transparency, and should send the new Patriot PAC-3 missile interceptor, which is now in production, to U.S. allies in the area. An effective defense against Scuds and Nodongs will reduce the demand for them.


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