A top U.S. Army General told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that North Korea has increased its global exports of missile technology.
The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, Army General Thomas Schwartz, offered his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In response to questioning by Senator John Warner of Virginia, the committee's ranking Republican, General Schwartz said North Korea remains the world's top weapons proliferator. "They are the number one proliferator of missiles, and also of conventional weapons. That is where they get their money. That is how they have kept their economy alive, and they are actively pursuing those interests around the world," he said. "And the intensity is on the increase, or leveled off?" John Warner asked. "Sir, just as of late, the last couple of months, it has increased," was Schwartz's answer.
President Bush has labeled North Korea part of an 'axis of evil', along with Iran and Iraq.
General Schwartz said North Korea remains a threat to the stability of the region, but he said there is no evidence the country is aiding terrorists. "We are watching them carefully to see if they are participating in any kind of terrorist activities in support of terrorism around the world. I can report to you that we have had no indicators that they are doing that," he said.
General Schwartz said Pyongyang continues to abide by a 1998 moratorium on missile testing, although he noted it has not responded to U.S. and South Korean offers for dialogue.
Also testifying before the committee was the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Navy Admiral Dennis Blair. He assured Senators there would be no combat role for U.S. troops training Philippine soldiers in counter-terrorism. "It is absolutely clear that President Arroyo, her armed forces and all of the armed forces of the Philippines recognize this is their fight, their country, their sovereignty; they are the ones who will conduct it. They only want assistance, not replacements in this fight," Mr. Blair said.
Six hundred U.S. troops are on a six month mission to train Philippine forces fighting the Muslim extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, in the southern Philippines. U.S. officials believe the group has ties with al-Qaida terrorists.
Admiral Blair said his command plans to abide by the six month limit, but said some civil engineering projects and training programs could extend beyond that.