February 7, 2004
Nigeria has rejected a North Korean offer to buy missiles, after Washington raised concerns over the possible purchase from a nation it has labeled part of an "axis of evil". Nigeria did not immediately reassure the US it would turn down the offer when North Korea first made it the week before and US diplomats then met with the Nigerian government and hinted at possible sanctions.
During discussions between the Nigerian and North Korean Vice Presidents at the end of January, North Korea offered to assist Nigeria in the area of missile technology and defense technology. The Nigerians initially insisted that the North Korean offer had been on the table for a while and included training of army personnel, defense cooperation and missile technology, but definitely nothing to do with nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction.
After the imposition of sanctions by many Western nations, Nigeria turned to North Korea (as well as China, Russia and India) for military equipment and training. Nigeria already had a supply of Soviet surface-to-air missiles, but that they were in a poor state of repair. While Nigeria is now a key ally of the United States in Africa, they have also been reaching out to Asia in an effort to attract investment and alliances. The government has assured that its weapons are needed for security and peacekeeping.
Nigeria's Vice President has attached a great deal of importance to the second Nigeria/North Korea Joint Commission's outcome scheduled for March. Both countries want to develop economically viable projects in agriculture, solid minerals, small scale cement and state industries, foundry, housing, small scale hydroelectric generating stations as well as culture and tourism.
Whether North Korea offered the Nigerians short ranged ballistic missiles or simply to repair their SAMs is immaterial. The simple fact that North Korea wants to get cozier with Nigeria could indicate consequences for America if the situation ever got hot along the 38th Parallel again. The North Koreans would be in a position to sabotage the local oil industry. Nigeria is America's fifth-largest oil supplier. - Adam Geibel