Home GRASP GRASP/Korea Need a North Korean Missile? Call the Cairo Embassy

Need a North Korean Missile? Call the Cairo Embassy

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Egypt has long had military ties to North Korea, but their weapons trade violates international sanctions, officials say, and has angered the U. S.
Egypt has previously denied being the intended recipient of the weapons, or breaching international sanctions. In response to questions about the United Nations finding, the State Information Service said this past week: “The relevant Egyptian authorities have undertaken all the necessary measures in relation to the North Korean ship in full transparency and under the supervision” of United Nations officials.
After the Trump administration slashed aid last summer, Egyptian officials said they were cutting military ties to North Korea, reducing the size of its Cairo embassy and monitoring the activities of North Korean diplomats. The relationship with North Korea is “limited to representation, and there is almost no existing economic or other areas of cooperation,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a news conference with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in Cairo last month.
But that diplomatic representation, in an embassy that doubles as a regional arms dealership, is the problem, American officials have said. In addition, Washington worries that North Korea, a longtime supplier of ballistic missile technology to Egypt, is still supplying missile parts, said Andrea Berger, a North Korea specialist at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
“Ballistic missile customers are the most concerning of North Korea’s partners and deserve the highest attention,” she said. “Egypt is one of those.”
North Korea’s largest embassy in the Middle East, an elegant, three-story Victorian with a rusty brass plate over the entrance, sits on a leafy street on an island in the Nile. The embassy walls display photos of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, standing in a garden or strolling through a fish market. Its windows are usually shuttered, and security guards discourage passers-by from taking photos.
Like those of many North Korean outposts, the duties of the Cairo embassy extend well beyond diplomacy.
In Africa especially, North Korean diplomats have engaged in a wide variety of ruses and schemes to earn hard currency, United Nations investigators say. In South Africa and Mozambique, North Korean diplomats have been implicated in rhino poaching. In Namibia, North Koreans built giant statues and a munitions factory. In Angola, they trained the presidential guard in martial arts.
In Egypt, their business is weapons. United Nations inspectors and North Korean defectors say the Cairo embassy has become a bustling arms bazaar for covert sales of North Korean missiles and cut-price Soviet-era military hardware across a band of North Africa and the Middle East.
Shielded by diplomatic cover and front companies, North Korean officials have traveled to Sudan, which was then subject to an international trade embargo, to sell satellite-guided missiles, according to records obtained by the United Nations. Others flew to Syria, where North Korea has supplied items that could be used in the production of chemical weapons.
Inside the embassy, arms dealing goes right to the top. In November 2016, the United States and the United Nations sanctioned the ambassador, Pak Chun-il, describing him as an agent of North Korea’s largest arms company, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation.
At least five other North Korean officials based in Egypt, employed by state security or various arms fronts, have been sanctioned.

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