North Korea’s number two starts rare visit in Libya, Syria; sources: missile sales to be discussed
North Korea's number two, Kim Yong-Nam, arrived in Libya on Saturday to begin an official visit "to strengthen relations between the countries," the official JANA news agency reported.
The communist state's parliamentary head, who ranks behind North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, was greeted by Prime Minister Mubarak al-Shamekh and other leaders, it said.
He announced upon his arrival that the visit was "an important occasion to develop relations between the two countries," the report said.
Kim Yong-Nam had been expected to meet with Moamer Kadhafi, however the Libyan leader is currently on a tour of several African countries. According to South Korean officials, the North Korean delegation is to visit Libya for four days and Syria for three days. They have already visited Indonesia.
Tripoli has good ties with Pyongyang and the Kadhafi Foundation, run by one of the sons of the Libyan leader, and has in the past sent aid to help ease North Korea's severe food shortage.
According to diplomatic sources, the Mideast tour could signal renewed missile sales. North Korea has sold the Scud C and D missiles to Syria and is a leading contractor in an attempt to develop a No-Dong variant for Libya, The Worldtribune reported.
Syria has contracted North Korea to produce and assemble the Scud D missile, with a range of 700 kilometers. The sources said Damascus has launched the program from facilities that now produce the Scud C, with a range of 500 kilometers.
The Libyan visit is inclined to focus on North Korea's contribution to the No-Dong variant. The sources said Western intelligence agencies believe Pyongyang has shipped No-Dong missiles and components to Libya over the last year. About 100 North Korean specialists are in Libya to administer its medium-range missile program, meant to produce a weapon with a range of about 1,000 kilometers.
"We are talking about a major visit by a leader who hardly ever leaves North Korea," a diplomat said. "The agenda for such a visit can only be understood as being highly significant." (Albawaba.com)
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