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Using a “flag of convenience,” as the tactic is called, allows North Korean ships to avoid drawing unwanted attention in international waters. “The vessel’s automatic identification system was off for the majority of the voyage,” the report said, “except in busy sea lanes where such behavior could be noticed and assessed as a safety threat.” Still, a 300-foot-long freighter big enough to hold 2,400 passenger cars is not easily concealed. The vessel was heading northward through the Red Sea in early August when the warning was passed to Egyptian authorities about a suspicious North Korean vessel that appeared bound for the Suez Canal. “I give their foreign ministry credit for taking it seriously.” The Jie Shun had not yet reached the canal when an Egyptian naval vessel ordered the crew to halt for an inspection.
So does the practice of routinely shutting off a vessel’s transponder, behavior documented in a February U. “They were notified by our side,” said a former senior U. At first, the cargo hold appeared to match the description on the manifest: 2,300 tons of loose yellow rocks called limonite, a kind of iron ore.
Arms factories sprouted in the 1960s that soon produced enough weapons to supply North Korea’s vast military, as well as a surplus that could be sold for cash.
But digging beneath stone and tarp, the inspectors found wooden crates — stacks of them.
Asked about the boxes, the crew produced a bill of lading listing the contents, in awkward English, as “assembly parts of the underwater pump.” But after the last of the 79 crates was unloaded and opened at Egypt’s al-Adabiyah port, it was clear that this was a weapons shipment like none other: more than 24,000 rocket-propelled grenades, and completed components for 6,000 more.
“North Korea’s assistance created a legacy of dependency,” said Berger, author of “Target Markets,” a 2015 monograph on the history of Pyongyang’s arms exports.
“The type of weaponry that these [client] countries still have in service is largely based on communist-bloc designs from the Cold War era.
It also shed light on a little-understood global arms trade that has become an increasingly vital financial lifeline for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the wake of unprecedented economic sanctions. ] A statement from the Egyptian Embassy in Washington pointed to Egypt’s “transparency” and cooperation with U. officials in finding and destroying the contraband. officials confirmed that delivery of the rockets was foiled only when U. intelligence agencies spotted the vessel and alerted Egyptian authorities through diplomatic channels — essentially forcing them to take action — said current and former U. Even as the United States and its allies pile on the sanctions, Kim continues to quietly reap profits from selling cheap conventional weapons and military hardware to a list of customers and beneficiaries that has at times included Iran, Burma, Cuba, Syria, Eritrea and at least two terrorist groups, as well as key U. ] Some customers have long-standing military ties with Pyongyang, while others have sought to take advantage of the unique market niche created by North Korea: a kind of global e Bay for vintage and refurbished Cold War-era weapons, often at prices far lower than the prevailing rates.