Egypt in crossfire between UN sanctions and North Korean weapons
A U.N. investigation into a bulk freighter found that Egypt, a U.S. ally, has been buying weapons from North Korea for quite a while.
The investigation began in August, when a North Korea bulk freighter, the “Jie Shun,” entered Egyptian waters harboring unknown cargo. It turned out to be Egyptian business executives ordering millions of dollars worth of North Korean weapons for their military. The U.N. report said that it was the "largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."
Although Egypt did not follow the U.N.’s sanctions, the Egyptian Embassy has since pointed out their own transparency and cooperation with U.N. officials as they find and destroy the weapons. The embassy said they will “continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will...be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea.”
However, the embassy’s sentiment is unlikely to hold true as North Korea and Egypt continue to maintain diplomatic ties and a history of military cooperation dating back to the 1970s. North Korea is one of few select countries that still sells low-cost parts and ammunition for older weapons, making it even more difficult for Egypt to turn elsewhere. Although Egypt has publicly agreed to stop trading and working with North Korea, it seems likely that Egypt will continue trading with North Korea unless there’s outside intervention or pressure.
Conversely, pressure from other countries through economic sanctions results in North Korea further pursuing illicit arms trades. In early September, the U.N. Security Council set sanctions, limiting North Korea’s oil imports. It also banned the nation’s textile exports, a key component of North Korea’s export income. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., reported that more than 90 percent of North Korea’s exports are banned under the sanctions. But North Korea will continue to look to other sources of income, one likely being the continued sale of weapons.
If the U.N. puts pressure on the countries buying arms, it could potentially help decrease the number of countries willing to buy from North Korea. For instance, after linking the Jie Shun to Egypt, the Trump administration freezed or delayed $290 million in military aid that was supposed to go to Egypt. Furthermore, the White House sent out an official statement urging countries to stop providing economic and military benefits to North Korea.
Sanctions may have worked to impede North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s regime but it is also important to host interventions with countries buying weapons from North Korea.