US Monitors N.Korea Drug Trade!

US Monitors N.Korea Drug Trade!
Posted by FoM on February 10, 1999 at 20:29:02 PT

The Clinton administration is concerned enough about the North Korean government's growing role in international narcotics trafficking that the CIA has begun using spy satellites to monitor drug cultivation in the cash-strapped Stalinist state, U.S. officials say. 
Over the past five years, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities say North Koreans with ties to the government in Pyongyang have been arrested for, or are involved with, drug-smuggling cases in 16 countries. For example, last summer, Egyptian customs agents found more than 500, 000 tablets of Rohypnol, a tranquilizer known as the ``date-rape drug,'' when they searched the luggage of two North Korean diplomats at the airport in Cairo. And Russian officials in the far east regions of the vast nation recently uncovered a heroin-smuggling operation when they arrested two North Korean state security agents attempting to sell 18 pounds of heroin as a first installment on a deal for more than 3 tons of the illegal drug. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite scores of similar incidents involving North Korean diplomats or security agents trading in illicit narcotics. ``Because of continuing reports North Korea may be producing large quantities of opium for the illicit market and may be involved in methamphetamine production and trafficking, we need to monitor the situation closely to determine whether a substantial amount of opium is being cultivated or harvested in North Korea, and whether opium transiting North Korea is significantly affecting the United States,'' State Department spokesman James Rubin said. Rubin declined to go into detail about the evidence against North Korea or explain exactly how the United States plans to monitor drug cultivation in what is arguably the world's most isolated and secretive nation. He said, however, that the Clinton administration would consider further economic sanctions against Pyongyang if it can be proved that more than 30,000 acres of land are being used to cultivate illegal drugs. A nation that meets that threshold for drug crops is considered a ``major drug-producing country,'' which automatically requires the president to rule every March whether economic sanctions should be imposed. Such sanctions would be largely moot, however, since the United States maintains an economic embargo on North Korea as a result of its alleged support for international terrorism, its export of ballistic missiles and its state of war with South Korea. U.S. intelligence officials says reconnaissance satellites have been ``tasked'' several times over the past two months to photograph the North Korean countryside in an attempt to determine whether 30,000 acres are under cultivation for crops used to produce heroin and other narcotics. Analysis of the images is still under way, American intelligence and federal law enforcement officials say, but initial estimates show that some 17,000 acres currently produce more than 40 tons of opium annually.
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