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All were North Korean copies of a rocket warhead known as the PG-7, a variant of a Soviet munition first built in the 1960s.A closer examination by UN experts would reveal yet another deception, this one apparently intended to fool the weapons' Egyptian recipients: Each of the rockets bore a stamp with a manufacturing date of March 2016, just a few months before the Jie Shun sailed. "On-site analysis revealed that they were not of recent production," the U. report said, "but rather had been stockpiled for some time." North Korea's booming illicit arms trade is an outgrowth of a legitimate business that began decades ago."The ship was in terrible shape," said a Western diplomat familiar with confidential reports from the official UN inquest."This was a one-shot voyage, and the boat was probably intended for the scrap yard afterward." Seaworthy or not, the ship set sail from the port city of Haeju, North Korea, on July 23, 2016, with a 23-manned North Korean crew that included a captain and a political officer to ensure communist-party discipline on board.Over time, the small-arms trade has emerged as a reliable source of cash for a regime with considerable expertise in the tactics of running contraband, including the use of "false flag" shipping and the clever concealment of illegal cargo in bulk shipments of legitimate goods such as sugar or - as in the case of the Jie Shun - a giant mound of loose iron ore."These cover materials not only act to obfuscate shipments, but really highlights the way that licit North Korean businesses are being used to facilitate North Korean illicit activity," said David Thompson, a senior analyst and investigator of North Korean financial schemes for the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a nonprofit research organisation based in Washington.
The Jie Shun's final secret would take months to resolve and would yield perhaps the biggest surprise of all: The buyers were the Egyptians themselves.In the 1960s and '70s, the Soviet Union gave away conventional weapons - and, in some cases, entire factories for producing them - to developing countries as a way of winning allies and creating markets for Soviet military technology.Many of these client states would standardise the use of communist-bloc munitions and weapons systems in their armies, thus ensuring a steady demand for replacement parts and ammunition that would continue well into the future.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 US allies such as Egypt, analysts said.
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.
A spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in Washington pointed to Egypt's "transparency" and cooperation with UN.