Egyptian officials have tried to conceal an arms deal purchased by the Egyptian army from North Korea despite international sanctions against Pyongyang, a Washington Post report has found.
Egyptian internal documents show that officials in Cairo are scrambling to control the damage after US spy agencies uncovered a plot to smuggle a North Korean shipment of North Korean weapons into the country in defiance of international sanctions against Pyongyang, according to their report.
The newly acquired documents apparently include an explicit recognition of the Egyptian military's role in buying 30,000 missile bombs found hidden on a North Korean cargo ship in 2016.
The ship was heading to an Egyptian port in the Suez Canal, and a UN report described the seizure as the largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against North Korea.
The newspaper said it had obtained documents from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry showing that North Korean officials continued to demand payment in return for a shipment of arms estimated at $ 23 million, raising fears among Egyptians that they may be blackmailed.
While an Egyptian government spokesman declined to comment on the documents, the paper notes that it had previously talked about an Egyptian secret deal to buy North Korean bombs in October 2017.
The North Korean cargo ship Ji Shun was stopped after US intelligence agencies alerted Cairo to the possibility of hidden smuggling on board.
The Egyptian authorities uncovered the arms shipment and seized the ship, but US officials discovered that the intended beneficiaries of the deal were the Egyptians themselves.
While Egyptian officials have never publicly acknowledged the purchase of North Korean military equipment, a practice banned under US and UN sanctions, in 2017 President Donald Trump administration officials ordered a freeze on the delivery of $ 300 million in military aid to Egypt, in part due to unspecified secret arms deals. Between Cairo and Pyongyang.
The documents appear to show deep concern among Egyptian officials about a range of problems arising from the discovery of the arms shipment, including the possibility of North Korea threatening to expose the details of the entire trade relationship.
The report notes that Egyptian Foreign Ministry documents are dated between March and May 2017, that is, before Cairo's role in arms transfers is known.
One of the documents, dated May 28, 2017, and prepared for Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, discusses North Korea's discontent with the seizure of the arms shipment and offers suggestions on how to keep the issue calm.
The memo refers to a letter sent by North Korea to the Arab Organization for Industrialization - the state-owned Egyptian defense industry - to demand payment, and that the letter contained vague threats.
The letter again included threats from the North Korean side to reveal what they knew about the shipment.
The document says the Egyptian company "denies knowing" the arms deal, but after several sentences urges a quick financial settlement to keep the North Koreans calm.
"We have made it clear that the State Department prefers to expedite this settlement as soon as possible," the document said, preferably before Egypt's regular membership in the UN Security Council expires in December of that year.
The first confiscation of the weapons was made public in a report by the UN Committee of Experts, a monitoring organization set up by the council to investigate violations of UN sanctions against North Korea.