The United States is increasing pressure on North Korea for their nuclear program, sanctions are piling on, and the international community largely agrees with the U.S and condemns the rogue regime in Pyongyang. However, one U.S. ally consistently refuses to follow the international consensus. That country is Egypt and it is time for the US to act.
This pattern began with military alignment amidst international conflicts in the 1950s and 60s. Both North Korea and Egypt were members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and shared solidarity with the Soviet Union. The relationship deepened when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and the second Arab-Israeli War began and faced invasion from Israel, the U.K, and France. The North Koreans donated money to the war effort. After the war, North Korea sent diplomats to establish relations and pilots who fought during Egypt’s 1973 conflict with Israel. The military bond between the two countries culminated with a North Korean gift to Egypt: a statue of an AK-47 with its bayonet pointed towards the sky.
Under Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, military support grew into economic relations between the two countries. Both regimes harbor mistrust towards world powers. North Korea’s animosity towards the US and Russia is obvious, but the Egyptians do not want to rely on the U.S and Russia for its military needs either. Thus, Egypt is a major purchaser of North Korean military technology.
More specifically, Egypt bought SCUD missiles from North Korea in the 1990’s and is a major consumer of North Korea’s air defense exports. Egypt wants to use the technology to help Saudi Arabia balance its military with that of Iran, a growing aggressive influence in the region. North Korea could also supply Egypt with the supplies and materials to acquire nuclear weapons.
In return for all of this, Egyptian leader Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi refuses to uphold U.N. sanctions against North Korea. A new U.N. report also claims that Egypt has been acting as a middle man of sorts by buying goods from North Korea to sell throughout North Africa. For example, North Korea sold 180 missiles to Sudan for $6.8 Million through its embassy in Cairo.
Recently, the U.S decided to cut $291 million in military aid to Egypt in part because of its dealings with Pyongyang. Egypt responded and said it would only have diplomatic ties with the Pyongyang, cutting economic and military relations. However, in August of 2017, a North Korean vessel was seized carrying 30,000 rocket propelled grenades and other weapons near Egypt. The Egyptians initially refused to let U.S. inspectors aboard the ship, and then only after the most valuable information about the cargo was gone.
The U.S and its allies know of this alliance. The U.S seems to value its relationship with Egypt more than it hates Egypt’s relationship with North Korea, but, if the goal of sanctions are to suffocate the North Korea regime, Egypt’s foul play lets air in.
An economic or diplomatic move would both further pressure North Korea and send a clear message to the international community. As tensions continue to escalate with Washington and Pyongyang, one has to wonder where Egypt will stand in the end. Only time will tell.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.