Namibia toes the line on N. Korea

Namibia toes the line on N. Korea

Windhoek

A high-powered Namibian delegation met officials in North Korea last weekend to, amongst others, review some of the Asian country’s projects in Namibia, which recently drew threats of UN sanctions.

A military project between Namibia and North Korea is said to be in defiance of the UN Security Council, which banned, among others, any technology transfer or training that could be used for military purposes between North Korea and UN member countries.

It is understood the recent meetings and measures taken by the Namibian government are aimed at observing international law and complying with the directives of the United Nations committee on sanctions.

International Relations Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah’s meetings over the past weekend with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and titular head of state Kim Jong-un also touched on talks related to the development of “friendly and cooperative relations… and other issues of mutual concern,” state-owned Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

North Korea is understood to be currently building a munitions factory in Namibia, but President Hage Geingob – speaking on the matter during his State of the Nation Address in April – said the agreement was entered into before UN sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang. President Geingob was, therefore, of the view that the country’s dealings with Pyongyang were not in defiance of any statues, as suggested by critics.

Also in April, a Namibian delegation to a New York conference met the UN committee on sanctions to explain the country’s relations with North Korea. In that meeting, Namibia is said to have clarified that all its dealings with the East Asian country were agreed upon before the UN passed sanctions against North Korea – a country often accused of gross human rights violations.

New Era reported later in April that the UN exonerated Namibia from any wrongdoing, but it now appears the country was urged to toe the line on new dealings with Pyongyang. Yesterday Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah told New Era that she was still at the airport and was therefore unable to provide further clarity on the subject. “I’m coming to address that matter when I arrive in the country,” she briefly said.

It is not likely that Namibia would wholly cease relations with North Korea, but New Era understands that the munition project is likely to be discontinued. Namibia’s attempt to place on ice North Korea’s military projects in the country is seen as government fulfilling its international commitments regarding the matter.

North Korean firms were previously involved in the construction of Namibia’s State House, Heroes’ Acre monument, the military museum at Okahandja, the Independence Museum in Windhoek and other military construction projects that are now said to be prohibited under the UN sanctions.

Perhaps the clearest hint of the government’s stance on the subject came when Nandi-Ndaitwah, during an interview with the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in New York two months ago, said the country would continue to cooperate with the UN in this matter. “There is nothing really to worry about and we want to assure our people that as a government we will continue to cooperate with the UN,” she was quoted as saying.

Ties between Namibia and North Korea date back to the days of the anti-colonial struggle when the Asian nation supported Namibia – and cordial diplomatic relations continued after independence.

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