Inside one of Uganda’s main air bases lurks a resource the nation pledged two years ago to jettison—North Korean soldiers. The commandos, from North Korea’s special-operations division, are covertly training Uganda’s elite troops in skills from martial arts to helicopter-gunnery operations, say senior Ugandan military officers.
The instructors are among the North Korean soldiers, companies, contractors and arms dealers operating around the world in violation of United Nations sanctions, helping Pyongyang skirt a Washington-led “maximum pressure” campaign, say military officers and foreign diplomats.
The pattern traces across a swath of smaller nations, such as Tanzania, Sudan, Zambia and Mozambique, that have pledged to sever relations nurtured over decades as part of a U.N. campaign to pressure North Korea to drop its nuclear-weapons programs. North Korean operatives or Pyongyang-controlled companies in those countries and Uganda generate foreign exchange for Pyongyang.
Malaysia Korea Partners, or MKP, a company that U.N. monitors say is part of a joint venture of North Korean entities directed by the intelligence agency responsible for clandestine operations has earned tens of millions of dollars for the Kim regime on projects in Uganda, Angola and Zambia over the past decade, the Journal reported last year, citing analysts who evaluated MKP.
Two military officers say they viewed documents confirming North Korean weapons deliveries as recently as August that included antitank systems, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The weapons, for Uganda’s special forces, were shipped through a Kenyan port and driven across Uganda’s border at night, they say.
“We never ended our ties,” said an Ugandan officer who described how North Korean commanders recently trained him in close combat. “They just moved underground.”
A Ugandan Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement: “These are despicable allegations.” Uganda’s defense force, he said, “has totally complied with the UN Security Council resolutions on the subject and the Uganda government as required of it, has made numerous reports to the UN in that regard.” Asked directly whether there were North Koreans training in the country, he didn’t respond.
The American Embassy in Uganda and the Pentagon’s U.S. Africa Command didn’t respond to requests for comment. U.S. officials say many in the Trump administration have been instructed to remain quiet on North Korean defiance over concern speaking out could undercut the image of an effective sanctions regime or weigh on negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
[Wall Street Journal]