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Ship Carrying Missiles Intercepted in Arabian Sea - 2002-12-11


A ship carrying at least a dozen Scud missiles has been intercepted in the Arabian Sea. U.S. officials say the shipment appears to be from North Korea.

The Spanish navy stopped the merchant ship about 1,000 miles off the coast of the Horn of Africa and found the missiles and missile parts hidden under a shipment of cement.

U.S. officials say the short-to-medium-range missiles are believed to be from North Korea though their intended destination is not yet known. They say the Bush administration is consulting with regional allies before deciding on its next move.

Reports say U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking the ship since it left North Korean waters several weeks ago, and U.S. investigators are now onboard inspecting the illicit cargo.

President Bush says North Korea is part of an "axis of evil" that could help terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction. Unlike the more confrontational approach with fellow-axis-of evil member Iraq, Mr. Bush is engaged in a diplomatic effort with China, Russia, and Japan to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

This discovery of Scud missiles is certain to up the pressure on North Korea as terrorists have been active in the areas around the Arabian Sea.

Al-Qaida terrorists attacked a French tanker in October. Two years ago, suicide bombers killed 17 U.S. sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen.

While the Bush Administration says Yemen has been a haven for terrorists, the government there is an ally in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism. U.S. military advisors have been working with Yemeni authorities to break-up a suspected al-Qaida network.