Uganda has disengaged from relations with North Korea in areas sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, State Minister for International Relations Okello Oryem told local media over the weekend.
“Following UN sanctions, we have disengaged with North Korea in areas the UN sanctions apply,” the minister said according to local newspaper the Daily Monitor. “But our policy is that no one can choose [our] friends. We choose our friends and enemies.”
Notably, the minister said North Korea was no longer training Ugandan air force pilots, a statement which may answer questions about precisely when Kampala would end contracted military cooperation in that area.
A June 7 Ugandan sanctions implementation declaration revealed a contract outlining North Korea’s provision “of training to pilots and technicians of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces” until March 20 2018.
The two nations’ air forces share a number of aircraft types, including the Mi-24/25 attack helicopter and the MiG-21 fighter jet.
While the declaration clearly indicated the pilot training contract would not be renewed, until Oryem’s statement there had been no public indication as to whether or when such cooperation would be severed.
Uganda, a long-time ally of North Korea, announced it would halt military and security exchanges with Pyongyang following a summit with the now-impeached South Korean president Park Geun-hye in May this year.
Park’s visit was part of a tour around Africa which sought to build distance between Pyongyang and some of its traditional allies on the continent.
Previous NK News coverage from Uganda in 2013 outlined significant cooperation between North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security and the Ugandan police force, reporting which was later included in UN Panel of Expert annual reports on suspected areas of enforcement concerns.
Pressure on Uganda to sever police and military ties with North Korea was reportedly one of the reasons President Park wished to visit Uganda during her May tour of the continent.
While UN Security Council Resolutions 1874 and 2270 both prohibit members states from obtaining North Korean technical training and military equipment, prior to Park’s visit Uganda had previously said that, according to its understanding of the resolutions, it had not breached sanctions.
Meanwhile, North Korean state media on Saturday reported that Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni sent a message to Kim Jong Un in November to underscore his country’s appreciation of the late Kim Jong Il.
Kim’s death anniversary is on December 17 and usually attracts similar messages from a variety of heads of state which enjoy warm diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Main picture: Wikimedia Commons