A delegation of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry visited Ethiopia in order to promote and advance bilateral relations and diplomatic activities, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Friday.
The article in North Korea’s primary state media outlet, however, did not provide the visit date, nor did the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website havy any detail on the delegation.
A director within the Foreign Ministry, Ho Yong Bok, lead the delegation according to the article. Ho has been actively visiting African states since 2016 and also headed delegations to Guinea, Mozambique, and Uganda last year.
“Hirut Zemene, state minister for Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, and other heavyweights of Ethiopia appreciated that the DPRK is protecting its sovereignty and achieving miraculous successes in the drive for economic development,” the article said.
This, KCNA wrote, is “despite the toughest sanctions and pressure of the hostile forces and making pro-active efforts for peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region”.
“Both sides agreed to re-energize visits and contacts of delegations, exchanges, and cooperation in politics, economy and all other fields for boosting the favorably developing bilateral relations,” the article concluded.
North Korea and Ethiopia have long-standing relations that stem back to the mid-1970’s. Those relations have also involved military cooperation, with North Korea providing weapons and training services to the African state throughout the 1980’s.
This relationship continued in decades that followed and Ethiopia has recently come under scrutiny by the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) tasked with monitoring DPRK sanctions.
In its 2014 and 2015 reports the PoE said that was investigating possible links between an Ethiopian ammunition manufacturer, Homicho Ammunition Engineering Industry, and a North Korean entity, Korea Mineral Trading General Corporation.
In 2009, a shipment of North Korean weapons was discovered in South Africa with its final destination being the Democratic Republic of Congo. The transfer of the cargo was facilitated by Ethiopian Airlines.
Ethiopia has appeared reluctant to communicate with the PoE in order to facilitate their investigation and only submitted its first ever UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution implementation report in 2017.
North Korean annual exports to Ethiopia has remained above 5 million dollars since 2011 and reached a high of over 15 million dollars in 2012, according to the NK Pro trade map. The bulk of the exports since 2000 have been in machinery, plastics, vehicles and “explosives, pyrotechnics, matches, pyrophorics”. North Korea’s imports from Ethiopia, however, remain low.
Ethiopia has also previously enlisted the services of Mansudae Overseas Projects (MOP), an entity now sanctioned by the U.S., to construct a statue in Addis Ababa. The export of statues by North Korea is now also prohibited by the UN.
Ethiopian representatives were not available for comment in time for publication.