Egypt claimed that it destroyed a North Korean arms shipment that entered the Suez Canal in 2016 while rejecting a Washington Post report that the weapons had been destined for its military.
Citing US officials and Western diplomats, the Post reported Sunday that the Egyptian army was secretly buying $23 million worth of rocket-propelled grenades in 2016 from North Korea, which has been the subject to a UN Security Council ban over its missile and nuclear tests.
More than 24,000 of such grenades were discovered on a ship operated by North Korean crew, named the Jie Shun, by Suez Canal customs officials, according to the report.
However, in a statement sent to AFP on Monday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid “categorically denied what the report mentioned regarding Egypt being the destination for the shipment.”
Abu Zeid said, “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,” said the official.
He added, “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.”
“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.
The report had said a UN investigation found that Egypt was the original buyer of the shipment.
The United States, the Post report said, had warned Egypt in August 2016 that the Jie Shun, under the Cambodian flag, was headed toward the Suez Canal.
It was one of a series of clandestine deals that led United States President Donald Trump’s administration to freeze or delay about $300 million in military aid to Egypt this year, according to the Post report.