In August, a cargo ship flying Cambodian colors sailed from North Korea with unknown cargo until it was intercepted in Egyptian waters and its contents sparked an international investigation.
Upon entering Egyptian waters, the “Jie Shun” was seized by customs agents who discovered a cache of nearly 24,000 rocket launchers and components for 6,000 more weapons hidden beneath bins of iron ore.
A United Nations report later called the interception the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
According to a report in The Washington Post, Egyptian customs agents were informed about the suspicious bulk freighter by the United States.
This is bonkers. Egyptians are buying weapons from North Korea. https://t.co/S3FtghbNJu
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) October 1, 2017
An investigation by the U.N. revealed that the Egyptians were actually the buyers of the weapons, an arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars of North Korean rockets for Egypt’s military while keeping the transaction secret.
Washington has accused Egypt of attempting to conceal the transaction, contending that the Egyptians failed to act until U.S. intelligence officials alerted Egyptian authorities to the Jie Shun.
Despite Egypt’s attempt to conceal the deal, a spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., focused on Cairo’s “transparency” and cooperation with U.N. officials in finding and destroying the weaponry.
According to the spokesman, “Egypt 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.”
David Thompson, a senior analyst and investigator for the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, D.C., reported that North Korea has been utilizing similar undercover weapon shipments to finance Kim Jong Un’s attempts to build a nuclear missile.
“These cover materials not only act to obfuscate shipments, but really highlights the way that licit North Korean businesses are being used to facilitate North Korean illicit activity,” Thompson said.
U.S. officials confirmed that the discovery of the weapons shipment was among the factors leading to the Trump administration’s decision in July to freeze or delay $290 million in military aid to Egypt. (Read more from “Customs Agents Make ‘Largest of Its Kind’ Discovery After Seizing North Korean Ship” HERE)