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  • Choosing Sides in the Persian Gulf
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 9:03 PM on Dec 06, 2010

    The governments of Persian Gulf nations are worried enough about ballistic and cruise missile proliferation in the region that the UAE is creating a missile defense training center.

    As the range of missiles and rockets fielded by Syria and Iran and shared with Hamas and Hezbollah increase, regional leaders are beginning to see the value of an interlocking set of sensors and command centers since any missile may fly through the airspace of two or more countries before reaching its target.

    North Korea – in some cases facilitated and aided by the Chinese, according to classified U.S. documents released by Wikileaks – is the origin of technology fueling missile improvements.

    “The PRC would not be doing something directly that involves weapons used in the fight against the U.S.,” says a senior U.S. intelligence official. “If they got caught it would bring down a pall on all their dealings with the U.S. – that they are trying to cultivate – and it would stoke the far right to portray China as the bad guys and raise the flag of the evil PRC.”

    Chinese influence is also evident in Kyrgyzstan where U.S. officials say China has an impressive intelligence presence. In fact, the Wikileaks trove of U.S. State Department documents revealed a confrontation between the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. official asked about a covert attempt by China to bribe Bishkek’s government with $3 billion in cash to close the U.S. military base at Manas which is a primary logistic center for operations in Afghanistan. The Chinese representative did not deny the bribe, but said the idea was impossible because China was a staunch opponent of terrorism.

    “The PRC is not concerned about the base in KStan because of [U.S. operations in] Afghanistan, but because it is a US presence on the western border of China,” says the U.S. intelligence official.

    Other analysts say that China is playing a deeper game than intelligence gathering and is actually involved or is facilitating international arm proliferation to Iran and other mineral-rich countries in the Middle East and Africa.

    This is borne out by yet another leaked cable posted in mid-2008 that asked U.S. officials to approach host national officials to help stop North Korean flights to and from Iran. They asked that such aircraft either be denied overflights or be required to “land and be subjected to inspection.”

    The flight, from Pyongyang to Tehran, was described as a “proliferation concern” because it “may be carrying [North Korean] personnel involved in ongoing co-operation with Iran on ballistic missiles.”

    The aircraft had been scheduled to overfly China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  The U.S. also asked that the return flight, three days later, also be denied or subjected to inspection.

    "Alternatively," the cable says, "if this aircraft requests a fuelling stop in your country, we request that you grant this permission and promptly search the aircraft upon its arrival for evidence of prohibited items or activities."

    Of particular concern was the “transfer of WND components or delivery systems, certain military goods and related materials including spare parts [and] transfers from or to North Korea of technical training, advice, services or assistance related to WND, their delivery systems and certain conventional arms.”

    The U.S. is currently asking the International Atomic Energy Agency to take a closer look at North Korea’s sharing of nuclear technology. It is investigating the transfer of a nuclear reactor to Syria which was destroyed by an Israeli Air Force strike in early 2007. Washington is expressing concern about transfers of centrifuges to Iran and Myanmar in the wake of Pyongyang’s recent unveiling of a new uranium enrichment facility and growing suspicion that others remain hidden.

    Tags: ar99, missile-defense, Iran, China

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