Ethiopia Denies Shipment From Korea Violated Ban

New York Times
Michael R. Gordon
4/15/2007

The Ethiopian government has denied that it violated United Nations sanctions by carrying out a secret purchase earlier this year of military equipment from North Korea.

The Central Intelligence Agency reported in late January that an Ethiopian-flagged ship had left a North Korean port and that its cargo probably included tank parts and other military cargo, according to American officials.

The purchase of tank parts would violate restrictions on dealings with North Korea imposed by the United Nations Security Council in a resolution adopted in October. The Security Council acted less than a week after North Korea tested a nuclear device.

The Bush administration decided not to press Ethiopia to reject the shipment, and the vessel was not inspected after it took its cargo to a port in Djibouti for overland transport to Ethiopia. Some American officials said the shipment was most likely a Security Council violation.

In a statement issued Friday, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it had received a cargo shipment from North Korea on Jan. 22, but asserted that it did not include prohibited items like tank parts.

“This shipment contained spare parts for machinery and engineering equipment and raw material for the making of assorted ammunition for small arms,” the Ethiopian statement read. “The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa might have been aware of Ethiopia’s importation of the said cargo from North Korea. “However, the fact is that Ethiopia did not purchase arms or any other item covered by Resolution 1718 under the contractual agreements,” the statement read, referring to the Security Council measure. Ethiopia said the shipment was carried out under the terms of several contracts that were signed with North Korea in June and was paid for in advance.

The State Department has declined to comment on the details of this episode.

Ethiopia purchased $20 million worth of arms from North Korea in 2001, according to American estimates, and American officials say this pattern has continued. Ethiopia has an arsenal of Soviet T-55 tanks and other Soviet-style equipment. The United States has sought to persuade Ethiopia to wean itself from its longstanding reliance on North Korea for inexpensive Soviet-era military equipment.

The United States has had close ties with Ethiopia. American officials say that Ethiopia was provided with American intelligence about the location of Islamist forces before its recent offensive in neighboring Somalia. On Jan. 7, American AC-130 gunships launched two strikes on terrorist targets from an airstrip inside Ethiopia, according to American officials. Ethiopia has said such reports are a fabrication.

Previous Washington Post Story below…

U.S. Allowed N. Korea Arms Sale
Washington Post
Glenn Kessler
4/8/2007

The United States did not act to prevent a recent shipment of arms from North Korea to Ethiopia, even though sketchy intelligence indicated the delivery might violate a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting North Korean arms sales, Bush administration officials said yesterday.

The decision to let the shipment proceed was made by relatively low-level staffers, with little internal debate, and it was unknown to top policymakers involved in the campaign to punish Pyongyang for its test of a nuclear weapon last October, officials said.

The January arms delivery occurred as Ethiopia was fighting Islamic militias in Somalia, aiding U.S. policies of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.

Intelligence reports indicated that the shipment included spare parts, including tank parts, officials said. Nevertheless, the cargo was not inspected, making it difficult to know whether it violated the U.N. resolution. The value of the shipment is also unclear.

An interdiction of the shipment, delivered by a ship under the Ethiopian flag, was never seriously considered, officials said. Policy implications were not raised to Cabinet-level officials or even to those at the assistant-secretary level.

The New York Times reported the arms shipment on its Web site yesterday. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment on the report but said, “We are deeply committed to upholding and enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Ethiopia and other African countries that rely on Soviet-era military equipment have long purchased inexpensive spare parts from North Korea. The United States has sought to persuade those countries to end their relationships with Pyongyang. After U.S. diplomats learned of the January shipment, Ethiopian officials pledged yet again to look for suppliers other than North Korea, U.S. officials said.

The Bush administration has led a years-long campaign to choke off North Korea’s access to hard currency by thwarting weapons sales and cracking down on its extensive counterfeiting operations.

North Korea recently agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor, but only after the United States ended an investigation into a Macau bank linked to money laundering and counterfeiting operations. About $25 million in North Korea-linked bank accounts was frozen because of the probe, infuriating Pyongyang.

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