Thursday, July 20, 2006

Iranians 'Witnessed N. Korea Missile Test'

One or more Iranians witnessed North Korea's recent missile tests, deepening US concerns about growing ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities, a top US official said.

Asked at a US Senate hearing about reports that Iranians witnessed the July 4 tests, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the chief US negotiator with Pyongyang, replied: "Yes, that is my understanding" and it is "absolutely correct" that the relationship is worrisome. READ MORE

Mr Hill's comments are believed to be the first public US confirmation that Iranian representatives observed the seven tests, which involved one launch of a long-range ballistic missile, which failed soon after being fired, and six tests of short and medium-range missiles. Mr Hill said the six succeeded in hitting their target range.

But US officials have long said that Iran and North Korea have been collaborating and have expressed serious concerns that cash-strapped Pyongyang was keen to sell missiles and possibly also nuclear material.

"Our understanding is that North Korea has had a number of commercial relations in the Middle East with respect to missiles," Mr Hill said.