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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Following the total ban on UN member states hosting North Korean workers commencing on December 22, Egypt is the latest country to turn in a report claiming full compliance with the measures.
Their report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) 1718 Sanctions Committee was submitted on December 19, according to a document uploaded to its corresponding website early Friday.
Egypt was not known to be a major destination for DPRK workers but has maintained military ties to North Korea, according to reports in recent years from the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) on DPRK sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken of pressuring Cairo on this ongoing relationship, and it has even been speculated to be the motivation behind the withholding of U.S. aid in 2017.
Last month’s sanctions implementation report said the country’s “national agencies and ministries concerned … have stated that there have been no workers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea earning an income in the Arab Republic of Egypt.”
There had not even been any workers in Egypt “as of 22 December 2017, the date on which the resolution was adopted,” the report added.
That was the deadline for all DPRK workers to return home, according to Paragraph 8 of UNSC Resolution 2397, while UN member states still officially have until March 22 this year to submit their final implementation reports.
But while the statement suggests Egypt did not need to track down or expel any North Korean workers after the resolution went into effect, there had been suggestions months earlier that it was indeed an issue Cairo needed to address.
In a White House report on a July 5, 2017 phone call between President Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the two were said to have “discussed the threat from North Korea” and sanctions on the country.
“President Trump stressed the need for all countries to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea, stop hosting North Korean guest workers, and stop providing economic or military benefits to North Korea,” the readout said.
A readout on a meeting between Trump and Al Sisi that September also said the two leaders discussed North Korea.
But the pressure from the White House continued, with Vice President Mike Pence – after a meeting with Al Sisi in January 2018 – saying the two “spoke about the priority President Trump has placed on isolating North Korea economically and diplomatically.”
“We spoke with President Al Sisi about how important it would be for them to discontinue any diplomatic connection to North Korea,” Pence said at the time.
“And he received that well, and we’re very hopeful to see Egypt take action in the days ahead to join other nations that are standing with the United States and with nations across the world to isolate North Korea.”
Egypt’s assistance in enforcing sanctions meant to stop North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile development, as well as weapons proliferation, had been mixed in previous years, with the high point being the August 2016 seizing of the vessel Jie Shun containing 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades and components from an Egyptian company headed for the DPRK.
That company, the Al-Sakr Factory for Developed Industries (AOI), was sanctioned by the U.S. in May 2018 for the attempted sale and connections to the DPRK.
According to an annual UN PoE report released in March 2019, however, ongoing investigation of that incident found that North Korean diplomat An Jong Hyok had been trying to secure the release of the ship’s cargo.
The report said that Egypt confirmed to the Panel in July 2018 that An, the Third Secretary at the DPRK’s embassy in Egypt, was “no longer accredited … and has left Egypt permanently” as of that summer.
And while the PoE also said it had received assurances from Cairo that “there is no military cooperation with” the DPRK, an August 2019 PoE report said North Korea’s efforts to send technicians to establish “a complete supply chain” was “ongoing” in Egypt, according to information received from an unspecified country.
But perhaps the most well-known connection between the two countries is in the Egyptian private company Orascom’s ongoing management of one of North Korea’s telecom networks, Koryolink.
NK News also recently revealed that Orascom financed the massive new light wall system comprising over 100,000 LEDs installed on Pyongyang’s iconic Ryugyong Hotel in 2018.
Following the total ban on UN member states hosting North Korean workers commencing on December 22, Egypt is the latest country to turn in a report claiming full compliance with the measures.Their report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) 1718 Sanctions Committee was submitted on December 19, according to a document uploaded to its corresponding website early