Egypt denies North Korea weapons stash was bound for its military

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi listens and US President Donald Trump during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly

EGYPTIAN authorities have denied a massive shipment of weapons found on board a North Korean ship disguised in a Cambodian flag was bound for its military.

More than 24,000 rocket-propelled grenades were discovered on board the freighter named the Jie Shun in August last year after a secret message was passed from Washington to Cairo warning of the vessel’s impending arrival.

The huge weapons cache was disguised under bins of iron ore that were used as a front the destructive delivery, according to Express.

Washington accused Egypt of attempting to conceal the transaction, which was allegedly bound for their military, claiming Egyptian authorities didn’t act until US intelligence alerted them about the incoming ship.

However, The Washington Post reported the Egyptian government denied on Monday that the shipment was destined for its army after claiming the country was the undisclosed buyer of $23 million (AU$29.4 million) worth of rocket-propelled grenades from North Korea in 2016.

In a statement sent to AFP, spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid “categorically denied” what the (Washington Post) report mentioned regarding Egypt being the destination for the shipment.

“The sanctions committee report did not indicate that the shipment was destined for Egypt,” he added, referring to a UN report mentioned in the Post story.Express reported David Thompson, a senior analyst and investigator for the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies in Washington revealed North Korea has been using similar undercover weapon shipments to finance Kim Jong-un’s nuclear missile ambitions.

“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,” he told Express.

The Jie Shun, which was headed toward the Suez Canal, was run by a North Korean crew and had “an unknown cargo shrouded by heavy tarps”.

The Post report said a UN investigation found that Egypt was the original buyer of the shipment, which Egypt denies.

“The shipment that was confiscated was not destined for Egypt,” said Abu Zeid. “Egyptian authorities indeed intercepted a ship flying the Cambodian flag before it entered the southern entrance of the Suez Canal, following information that it was carrying anti-tank rockets from North Korea in violation of (UN Security Council) sanctions.

“Egyptian authorities indeed confiscated the shipment and destroyed it in the presence of a team of experts from the 1718 committee overseeing the UNSC sanctions on North Korea” said the foreign ministry spokesman.

Abu Zeid added that “the head of the UNSC North Korea sanctions committee has lauded Egypt’s efforts.” The Post reported that the officials said the incident “was one of a series of clandestine deals” that led US President Donald Trump’s administration to freeze or delay about $300 million (AU$383 million) in military aid to Egypt this year.