Egypt has secretly ordered weapons from North Korea in breach of United Nations (UN) sanctions, with the shipment exposed by the US, the Washington Post reported late Sunday.
According to the report, a bulk freighter named Jie Shun, flying Cambodian colors, had sailed from North Korea in July 2016, and was noticed by US intelligence in the Suez Canal in August. Egypt was notified about the suspicious vessel, but it turns out the vessel was intended for them, the article explained.
The ship was raided, and Egyptian officials found a cache of more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades concealed under 2,300 tons of loose yellow rocks called limonite, a kind of iron ore.
A UN report later concluded that this was the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
A UN investigation exposed what the Washington Post described as a “complex arrangement” in which Egyptian businessmen ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean ammunition for the country’s military, while also ensuring to keep the matter concealed, according to US officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings.
The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, US complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said.
A statement from the Egyptian Embassy in Washington pointed to Egypt’s “transparency” and cooperation with UN officials in finding and destroying the contraband.
In response to the report, Egypt stated that it “will continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will always be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea,” and that it has destroyed the illicit shipment.
US officials say that Egypt was forced to destroy the shipment after it was exposed, but had no initial intention of doing so.
“But US officials confirmed that delivery of the rockets was foiled only when US intelligence agencies spotted the vessel and alerted Egyptian authorities through diplomatic channels — essentially forcing them to take action — said current and former US officials and diplomats briefed on the events,” the report said.
North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile development and nuclear programs, and the UNSC has toughened the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches conducted by Pyongyang.
Iran, Burma, Cuba, Syria, Eritrea, Uganda, Congo, and at least two terrorist groups are also believed to been North Korean weapons clients, the report said.