Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country's nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from North Korea, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior US officials.
The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopian troops were in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the US policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.
The arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration's commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.
It is also not the first time that the Bush administration has made an exception for allies in their dealings with North Korea. In 2002, the Spanish military intercepted a ship carrying Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen. At the time, Yemen was working with the United States to hunt members of Al Qaeda operating within its borders, and after its government protested, the United States asked that the freighter be released.
John R. Bolton, who helped to push the resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council in October, before stepping down as UN ambassador, said that the Ethiopians had long known that Washington was concerned about their arms purchases from North Korea and that the Bush administration should not have tolerated the January shipment. "Never underestimate the strength of 'clientitis' at the State Department," said Bolton, using Washington jargon for a situation in which State Department officials are deemed to be overly sympathetic to the countries they conduct diplomacy with.
[Excerpt of an article by Michael R. Gordon and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times News]