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North Korea has been selling small arms around the world to bring in the hard currency it needs to survive.

(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) Over time, the small-arms trade has emerged as a reliable source of cash for a regime with considerable expertise in the tactics of running contraband, including the use of “false flag” shipping and the clever concealment of illegal cargo in bulk shipments of legitimate goods such as sugar or — as in the case of the Jie Shun — a giant mound of loose iron ore.

Ships that ferried artillery rockets and tank parts to distant ports changed their names and registry papers so they could sail under a foreign flag.

New front companies sprang up in China and Malaysia to handle transactions free of any visible connection to Pyongyang.

North Korean-made rifles have even been recovered from the bodies of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, although U. officials believe the guns were probably looted from stocks sold to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi years earlier.

Still other customers look to North Korea as one of the last suppliers of low-cost parts and ammunition for older weapons systems that are scarcely found in commercial markets. aid recipient that still maintains diplomatic ties and has a history of military-to-military ties dating back to the 1970s with Pyongyang, said Berger, the Middlebury researcher.

But digging beneath stone and tarp, the inspectors found wooden crates — stacks of them.

Asked about the boxes, the crew produced a bill of lading listing the contents, in awkward English, as “assembly parts of the underwater pump.” But after the last of the 79 crates was unloaded and opened at Egypt’s al-Adabiyah port, it was clear that this was a weapons shipment like none other: more than 24,000 rocket-propelled grenades, and completed components for 6,000 more.

The bulk freighter named Jie Shun was flying Cambodian colors but had sailed from North Korea, the warning said, with a North Korean crew and an unknown cargo shrouded by heavy tarps.The list includes sub-Saharan African countries such as Uganda and Congo, which for decades relied on North Korea to train and equip their armies. Although Cairo has publicly sworn off dealing with North Korea, she said, incidents such as the Jie Shun show how hard it is to break old habits, especially for military managers seeking to extend the life of costly weapons systems.Egypt’s army today still has dozens of weapons systems that were originally of Soviet design.North Korea has started to innovate and move beyond those designs, but it is still willing to provide spare parts and maintenance.As the Russians and Chinese have moved away from this market, the North Koreans have stuck around.” As a succession of harsh U. sanctions threatened to chase away customers, North Korea simply changed tactics.

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