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Britain fears that Saudi Arabia’s arsenal of Chinese missiles could pose a threat to London by the middle of the decade, according to a report by the British Ministry of Defense.
It was the first time in years that a Western government report has listed Saudi Arabia as a missile threat and acknowledged its arsenal of CSS-2 missiles.
The Saudi missile arsenal was cited in a 1997 CIA report, but not as a threat. Since then the U.S. intelligence agency has not listed Riyadh as a missile state.
Britain has listed several Middle East countries as emerging missile threats and has termed Saudi Arabia as possessing intermediate-range missile capability.
The report, issued jointly with the Foreign Office, said Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria are developing ballistic missiles that threaten London. North Korea was also on the list.
“A particular cause for concern is the fact that North Korea appears to be willing to sell its missiles to any country prepared to pay for them,” the report said. “Were a country in the Middle East or North Africa to acquire a complete long-range ballistic missile system, a capability to target the U.K. accurately could emerge within the next few years.”
The report, submitted to parliament’s Defense Select Committee, listed 28 countries as possessing ballistic missile capabilities. They included such Middle East states as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
“We recognize that threat depends on both capability and intention,” the report said. “We currently have no evidence that any state with ballistic missiles has the intention specifically to target the UK. But intentions can change rapidly, and the fact is that the proliferation continues of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We believe that all responsible nations need to remain alert and take action to deal with the potential threat.”
The CSS-2, known as the DF-3 by the Chinese military, has been described as a single-stage, mobile, liquid-fueled, intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of delivering a single nuclear warhead. It has a range of about 1,500 miles. In the late 1980s, China upgraded the CSS-2 but is not believed to have provided Saudi Arabia with the more advanced model.
The British report said the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has not decided on whether to obtain a missile defense system. It said the government will soon release an unclassified report of British readiness against the missile threat.
“It is still premature to decide on acquiring an active ballistic missile defense capability for either deployed forces, for whom we already have considerable capabilities for passive force protection against weapons of mass destruction, or for defense of the UK,” the report said.
“But we have for some years been monitoring developments both in the potential ballistic missile threat and in the missile defense technology available to counter it, which is evolving rapidly.”
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