LAGOS, Nigeria -- North Korea has agreed to share missile technology with Nigeria, the Nigerian government said yesterday -- a deal that would take the secretive communist nation's missile business to sub-Saharan Africa.
If the deal goes through, Nigeria would join Libya, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria among countries reported to have received North Korea's help with missiles or missile technology.
Nigeria, which is not at war or under any known international threat, said any missile help would be used for "peacekeeping" and to protect its territory. It said it was not seeking nuclear technology or weapons of mass destruction.
A Nigerian official said no hardware acquisitions had yet been made or decided on. The government did not say whether Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation and West Africa's military giant, would obtain missiles or simply receive help making them.
The United States said it would encourage Nigeria, a key oil supplier and ally, to reject any arms deals with the communist country.
"Obviously, this issue of regional stability and military acquisition is something that we do care about, something that's a regular part of our dialogue with Nigeria," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
"We'd welcome a decision to turn down any such offers from North Korea . . . we've gone to many countries to try to encourage them not to buy."
North Korea largely exports "simple, robust" Scud missile technology -- not up to date, but useful for countries with relatively unsophisticated militaries, said Rose Gottemoeller of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
It is unusual for one of North Korea's clients to talk about a weapons transaction publicly.
Nigeria's vice president, Atiku Abubakar, reached the accord with Yang Hyong Sop, the visiting vice president of North Korea's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, said Abubakar's spokesman, Onukaba Ojo.
The two committed to a "program of cooperation that includes missile technology," Ojo said.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.