New York City, New York — As the world settles in for another week of U.S. President, Donald Trump and North Korean dictator, Kim Jong un exchanging apocalypse laced insults in some baffling game of ‘brink-of-war’ verbal one-upsmanship. A recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) report investigating the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) seemingly unfettered nuclear weapons program reveled that North Korea may have had help with its nuclear arms race from several nations within Africa.
The UNSC report which was released earlier this month stated that, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has made significant technological advances in its weapons of mass destruction capability in defiance of the most comprehensive and targeted sanctions regime in United Nations history.” Along with indicating that several African and Middle Eastern nations may have colluded with the DPRK by way of natural resource and weapons trade deals that may have provided financial and material support to its nuclear program.
The UNSC report also outlined a continuing investigation into “the widespread presence of nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in the Syrian Arab Republic.” Along with naming several of North Korea’s front, or dummy corporations run by North Korean intelligence agents under the command of the DPRK’s Reconnaissance General Bureau operating within the region.
So who are the players in the region.
The south-central African nation of Angola has been receiving an unknown amount of weapon shipments along with military training from North Korea for quite some time. These shipments along with DPRK military support is funneled through a North Korean front corporation known as Green Pine Associated Corporation, or “Green Pine.” Green Pine took over as the DPRK’s primary arms dealer and exporter for another North Korean front known as Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) after the UNSC designated them as such in early 2009.
Green Pine which is responsible for at least half of the DPRK’s arms exports specializes, among other things, in weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear and chemical weapons. And is currently up-grading Angola’s small, aging naval fleet. Angola, whose major ally in the region is the U.N. Permanent 5 (P-5) member China, has refused to respond to the UNSC investigator’s inquires into their dealings with North Korea.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been a recipient of training and weapons deals from North Korea since the Cold War. The UNSC report indicates that the Congolese government is still ignoring U.N. sanctions and is still receiving military training along with weapon shipments from the DPRK. The DRC even used the weapons they procured from North Korea on U.N. peace-keeping stability operations within the Central African Republic. The DRC’s long-time regional ally, China which has several hydroelectric and infrastructural improvement contracts within the Congo borders and enjoys strong Sino-Congo relations is looking to improve the two countries economic footprints. The Congolese government also declined to answer the UNSC inquires as well.
Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania
Mozambique reportedly funneled $6 million dollars through the North Korean front corporation known as the, Haegeumgang Trading Corporation several Russian-made Pechora-2M S-125 surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems, and unknown number of man-portable surface-to-air defense (MANPAD) systems, along with a plan to refurbish its aging Russian-made T-55 main battle tanks. The Tanzanian government also was found to have dealings with Haegeumgang Trading Corporation and paid out close to $12 million dollars for the refurbishing and upgrading of its Pechora-2m S-125 SAM batteries along with a brand new P-12 early warning air defense radar system.
Both of these African countries enjoy a robust financial and infrastructural development program with China. Mozambique and China currently have upwards of 52 different finance and agricultural projects underway as well as solid import/export trade deals and was named China’s hottest tourist destination. Tanzania also enjoys the same, with China deeply rooted into the country’s financial markets and revitalizing its struggling coal industry with close to a $400 million dollar loan.
In late July 2016, a shipment bound for Eritrea from the Chinese trading company known as Beijing Chengxing Trading Co. Ltd was intercepted after an anonymous tip from what the UNSC is calling an “unknown State Member” of the security council indicated that the shipment was that of North Korean military equipment. After U.N. inspectors searched the over 45 boxes, it was determined that the shipment was that of military grade radio communications, GPS equipment, and high frequency cryptographic radio transmission stations.
The shipment was destined for the Eritrean based company known as Eritech Computer Assembly & Communications Technology PLC by way of the Malaysian based Global Communications Company (Glocom). The trouble is, Glocom is another North Korean front company and used China’s Beijing based trading company as either a witting or unwitting proxy to ship military equipment to Eritrea illegally.
China and Eritrea also have a few infrastructural development projects ongoing within the region, to include a $23 million dollar project to improve Eritrea’s communications infrastructure. China even offered to put Chinese troops along the contested Eritrean-Djibouti border as peace-keepers after it opened its first overseas base in the Obock region of Djibouti earlier this year under its Belt and Road Initiative. Eritrea joined with the rest of the African nations under suspicion and have also refused to answer any of the UNSC inquires into this shipment.
Did these deals brokered in the shadows, using front companies assist North Korea in fast forwarding its nuclear proliferation goals, perhaps. It certainly provided the monetary gains that could have helped in the purchase of larger or more sophisticated technology to further its quest for the bomb. The bigger, scarier question is, did China, and maybe even Iran, use these African countries as a sort of proxy to shuttle the vital pieces North Korea needed to fulfill that quest.
Feature image courtesy of: Associated Press