Amid rumors emerging in the Israeli press that North Korea may be supplying Egypt with ballistic missile components, the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) announced on Monday that Pyongyang and Cairo have signed a 2013-2015 ‘Working Plan for Cultural Cooperation’.
The KCNA said on that the Cultural Cooperation agreement was made between the staff of the Egyptian Embassy in Pyongyang and a North Korean delegation led by Hwang Ho Nam, vice-chairman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.
Little detail was given about the specifics of the Cultural Cooperation agreement – which appears unrelated to Israeli missile rumors – but the ‘Cultural and Technical Relations’ section of the Egyptian Embassy in Pyongyang website describes an ongoing initiative called the ‘Executive Program for Implementing the Cultural Agreement between the Governments of Egypt and DPRK’.
“The Executive Program for Implementing the Cultural Agreement between the Governments of Egypt and DPRK periodically stipulates vital articles about all fields of cooperation, especially Higher and General Education, Scientific Research, Culture and Art, Public Health, Youth, Sports, and Mass-Media,” a bulletin on the Egyptian Embassy website explains.
“Accordingly, exchange programs have played, [are] still playing and will definitely play a profound role in this regard,” the bulletin continues.
With Egyptian construction company Orascom owning 75% of North Korea’s 3g network Koryolink, it is plausible that the “mass media” element of the deal may be related to enhancing the work of the company in North Korea.
ISRAELI MISSILE RUMORS
News of the ‘Working Plan for Cultural Cooperation’ came as Jerusalem Online published new claims that U.S. intelligence officials leaked information suggesting North Korea recently transferred ballistic missile components to Egypt, a move which would have been in violation of UN sanctions against the DPRK.
“Intelligence information obtained from the United States revealed that Chinese companies and North Korea are helping the Egyptian military upgrade its capabilities and develop advanced ballistic missile,” the Jerusalem Online said on Monday.
If true, the news could mean that recent cuts to military aid to Egypt by the United States, traditionally a strong supporter, mean that Egypt is looking elsewhere to bolster its military capabilities.
“One possibility is that Egypt purposely floated rumors of resumed North Korea trade as a means of putting pressure on the U.S. to restore full military cooperation”, said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies when contacted by NK News.
But, Fitzpatrick added, “Egypt has more to lose than to gain by resuming missile trade with Pyongyang”, pointing out that “if such trade had been resumed, I expect we would be hearing about it from more reliable media outlets”.
A source with expertise on DPRK sanctions who wished to remain anonymous told NK News that “there have been persistent rumors of a defense relationship between Egypt and the DPRK, but it has always been hard to pin down facts”.
“It would not be a surprise if the Egyptians have turned to the DPRK in their present position,” the source argued, “after all, DPRK missiles are similar to ones with which the Egyptians are already familiar.”
However, the source pointed out that “the supply of such missiles would, of course be a flagrant breach of UN Security Council resolutions.”
iHLS, an enterprise dealing with Israeli Homeland Security, carried another story on Monday about Egypt – DPRK missile cooperation that also underscored long-standing rumors that North Korea exported some 500 ballistic missiles to countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, since 1987.
Co-operation between the two countries dates back to the Yom Kippur war, when North Korea provided pilots for the Arab states’ offensive against Israel, and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was a firm supporter of continued close relations between North Korea and Egypt.
The website of the Egyptian embassy in Pyongyang describes the close relations between the DPRK and Egypt, saying it “acquired its momentum from the deeply-rooted warm friendship between leaders of the two nations – especially President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and late President Kim Il Sung”.
Picture: Korea Central News Agency
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